Is 2020 the Worst Year in Cybersecurity History?
Cyberattacks are up by 400%. Eighteen million phishing emails are sent every day, and half a million Zoom accounts are for sale on the dark web, while losses have reached $124 million and counting. Yes, “The Worst Year in the History of Cybersecurity” is yet another accolade we can add to the 2020 list of devastation.
The statistics are unsettling and, exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic, are likely to worsen in 2021 with further lockdowns being introduced and companies being forced to downsize.
The problem is, while businesses scrambled to stay afloat during the pandemic, they severely overlooked the avalanche of cyber threats headed their way. An entire world of remote workers migrated online almost overnight for work and play. And, as they found their “new normal”, hackers found their new opportunity.
A Year of Brutal Scams
Here’s a snapshot of the cybercrime scene today, and it’s a pretty grim state of affairs:
Instead of being protected by office infrastructures, monitored and controlled by security teams, a lot of remote workers are accessing sensitive company systems through the Windows Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Employees’ weak passwords and the absence of additional layers of authentication make RDP attacks hugely popular among ransomware gangs: more than 100,000 were reported
in May alone, compared to 30,000 in December of 2019.
Google saw more than 18 million daily malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19 in a single week in April. That’s on top of the 240 million pandemic-related emails they see in a single day. In whaling attacks, bad actors pretend to be CEOs and directors requesting funds from unsuspecting remote employees. Victims lose thousands to fake cloned sites and ransomware.
A Fresh Start
It’s not just remote workers being targeted, Garmin’s systems were frozen and held at ransom by Russian hackers. Meanwhile, fraudsters pose as the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stealing Social Security numbers and tax IDs. Situations like these have inspired entire companies to redesign their infrastructures to support indefinite remote work.
Adhoc security changes made in haste have likely opened new doors for attacks that hackers could exploit over time. This kind of “perimeter security” may defend against internet-borne threats, but attackers can easily exploit flaws within the code — even Amazon and Sony were breached due to simple design flaws.
Be Ready With a Plan
Social engineering attacks, like credential phishing, business email compromise, and phone scams, account for over 50% of all cybercrime. That means that, despite the menacing cybercriminal circuits you’ve been taught to fear, you are in fact the weakest link in your own security. So, follow as many of these rules as you can:
- Manage Access Meticulously
Ransomware gangs can freeze and hold entire networks to ransom via collaboration tools like Dropbox, Citrix, GitLab, or Egnyte. All hackers need is one victim obtained via social engineering to open an infected document and load it onto the sharing platform to infect the entire network. Every person who has access to that file is now at risk of data theft and malware infection.
File sharing can be dangerous, so it’s important to restrict access to sensitive folders and never reuse passwords across different apps. Better yet, use encrypted collaboration tools as an alternative way of transferring work files.
- Always Use a VPN While Browsing
A VPN encrypts your traffic and hides your data from online attackers. It can secure you on public Wi-Fi and help you avoid malware-loaded sites, which is great for working remotely and can protect your payment information from hackers when shopping online during the pandemic. The NordVPN app
protects you on up to 6 devices.
- Never Click on Links From Unknown Senders
Phishing and whaling attacks are on the rise. Always check URL names, look for spelling mistakes, and call the company directly if you’re concerned. The devil is in the details.
- Adjust Your Privacy Settings
Read reviews before downloading smartphone apps and adjust the privacy settings for any device, app, or service you use. Don’t provide any personal information on a website unless you know it’s legitimate. Even then, provide the bare minimum.
- Take Passwords VERY Seriously
It’s one thing falling victim to a spear-phishing email, but if your RDP credentials are admin/admin, you only have yourself to blame. Brute-force attacks are the easiest way for hackers to break into your corporate network or steal your finances. They’ll use their tools to run millions of username/password combinations per second until one gains them access.
2020 may be the worst year in the history of cybersecurity, but we don’t have to be its victims. Plenty of tools exist to counteract cybercrime, including VPNs. In fact, NordVPN can improve streaming, shopping prices, and even block annoying ads – you can get NordVPN here.
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