Cybersecurity Threats 2021

Today, organizations are faced with incredible challenges when it comes to protecting their sensitive information and intellectual property. Through data breaches and other malicious activity, organizations are losing massive amounts of sensitive data and suffering financial losses on the order of billions globally. Even with the advanced data security measures and data protection strategies that we have access to today, organizations are still susceptible to cybercrime through various attack methods.


Whether it be malware, ransomware, phishing attacks, trojans, DDoS attacks, or other various attack methods, organizations are still very much at risk and are benefited by limiting common attack vectors seen in 2021. Broken into eight categories, below are some of the most common cybersecurity threats in 2021 and some common strategies to mitigate the risk of those attacks.

Cyber Attacks

A cyber-attack is an attack launched by a malicious entity targeted at an organization’s IT infrastructure with the intent to exploit the target organization’s sensitive information. Cyberattacks take various shapes and forms in the attempt to uncover new unique ways to breach an organization’s security parameter or even take an organization offline. There are hundreds of different cyber-attack strategies. However, there are a handful that stand out as the most common cyber-attack methods to exploit organizations.


Malware (the combination of malicious and software) is an umbrella term that denotes all malicious software. The underlying intention of all malware is to exploit an organization by stealing or hijacking that company’s sensitive data. And even if the data security world has made incredible strides in stifling malware, there were a total of 677 million malware programs detected in 2020, up from 600 million the year before. Even though malware is posing an incredible challenge to organizations, there are some clear-cut actions organizations can take by first identifying different threats that are popular in 2020 and understanding the strategies to limit those threats.


Have you ever received a suspicious email that was attempting to pass off as a legitimate email but something seemed off? Chances are you were targeted by a phishing email. Phishing attacks are a subset of malware that employ social engineering tactics, such that cybercriminals try to convince a targeted user to inadvertently download malicious software onto their computer to maliciously gain access to the user’s device. In the previously mentioned phishing email, malicious entities will try and entice a user to click a link or download some software by pretending to be someone they are not.


Preventing phishing attacks comes down to a three-tiered approach. First, educate employees on the signs and dangers of phishing. Second, implement strict email filtering so most unsolicited emails go to spam. And lastly, have a dependable trusted anti-virus software installed in the event that a phishing attack should ever effectively install malicious software on an employee’s device.

Ransomware Attacks

One of the most challenging forms of malware today is ransomware. Ransomware attacks aim to exploit organizations by stealthily encrypting an organization’s production and backup data and once all of an organization’s data is infected, the malicious entity will encrypt all of the data and demand a ransom for the decrypting of that data. Unfortunately, these attacks are on the rise nearly doubling from 11.5 billion to 20 billion globally between 2019 and 2020.

To combat this, organizations are starting to take more sophisticated measures in protecting against ransomware. Primarily, organizations are implementing strict backup testing procedures to ensure backup data is ransomware-free. Once the backup data is verified to be ransomware-free, organizations are often offloading a copy of this backup to air-gapped or immutable storage so that, should they ever need it, they know they have a clear backup to restore from.


DDoS or Distributed Denial-of-Service is a strategy where two or more computers create phony service requests to an organization’s web server or other hosted application with the intention to overload the system. A DDoS attack can create an extremely high volume of phony requests. It can cause over congestion hindering user performance, or even completely overwhelm services such that they cannot facilitate requests to actual users attempting to use their service or visit their webpage.


Fortunately, there are emerging strategies to limit the effectiveness of DDoS attacks. One of the primary strategies is to implement cloud-native services specifically designed to identify and stop DDoS attacks on cloud-native workloads.


IoT, or the Internet of Things, is an emerging branch of technology that refers to a system of interconnected physical objects embedded with sensors and microdevices to communicate data with other devices about characteristics of that object or sensor either over network-based Wi-Fi or over the internet. With the emergence of IoT, we’ve also seen a spike in malicious attacks on IoT devices. If IoT devices are connected to an internet network, these devices can actually inadvertently act as a vulnerability or backdoor into a private network. Once breached, malicious entities can steal data such as personal data, credit card information, and other confidential information. Unfortunately, without the proper security solutions and strategies in place, IoT-connected devices can pose a major cybersecurity risk.


One of the most important considerations when bringing IoT-connected devices into a private network is to consider the authentication perimeter that is set around sensitive information. By enhancing security operations through a more robust information security strategy, organizations can limit these scams, identity theft, and other financial losses due to exploited network-connected devices.

Man in the Middle Attack

One of the other major cybersecurity threats shown to continue to rise in 2020 were man in the middle attacks. Man in the middle attacks happen when a malicious entity gains access to data being passed from a source to an endpoint and is able to read that sensitive data as it passes. Often, malicious entities sit in the middle looking for sensitive information to leverage for financial gain.


To combat this type of attack, business leaders often employ cybersecurity professionals to ensure their data transmission strategies are effective as a preventative risk management strategy. If data transmission channels are encrypted and aligned with the most up-to-date security protocols, organizations can drastically limit the chance of man in the middle attacks.


Cybersecurity Threats are Growing in the 2020s

If you are concerned about the proliferation of ransomware, malware, and other cyberattacks in 2020 and 2021 contact Touchstone Security today for a free assessment of your environment. We can provide expert recommendations on cybersecurity controls, and compliance goals. Contact us today