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Cybersecurity Predictions for 2021: Cyberattacks Expected to Triple, Social Media Manipulation and More

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Many companies within the healthcare industry feel that they are not prepared to respond to the upcoming flurry of cyber-attacks because cybercriminals are adopting new technologies and strategies faster than their ability to respond and react.

2020 saw a substantial surge in cybercrime and global changes that have taken place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have revealed several vulnerabilities, deficiencies, and gaps that healthcare organizations had in their cybersecurity.

As the pandemic spread, businesses were forced to close down offices and allow their workforce to work from home. The priority for most businesses has subsequently been maintaining productivity while working remotely and as a result, cybersecurity concerns became secondary. Even simple things that could have prevented a cyber-attack like using VPNs were and remain commonly ignored in lieu of expediency. 

With that said, here are some of the 2021 predictions made in regards to cybersecurity that all healthcare companies should be aware of. 

Companies Struggling to Fill Cybersecurity Roles

It takes longer to fill cybersecurity roles in the healthcare industry than it does other IT jobs. The healthcare industry in particular is having a difficult time finding replacements that have the necessary cybersecurity skills, for example.

In any company, it’s always the CISO or someone that is fully responsible for data breaches. This includes responsibility for any reputational damage and financial damage. Unfortunately, these CISOs have limited decision-making abilities when it comes to technology or policy. 

One approach that should become standard practice for businesses to take is to continuously run security tests of their servers and applications while they are running in order to identify security bugs before they can spread. According to Cloud Defense, this is best accomplished on a single platform that can then present to you the identified vulnerabilities categorized based on their respective risk levels. 

The authority for these things lies with other entities. For cybersecurity professionals working within these companies, they have to accept the responsibility for decisions made by others. Understandably, that is a hard sell.

Social Media Manipulation on the Rise

The internet is replete with false information, which can spread at the speed of light. The lines between what is true and what is fake are more blurred than ever before.

Information, be it legitimate or falsified, social media has become a weapon for manipulation. It influences and divides the general population and the confusion creates the perfect environment for cybercriminals to operate.

Social media is a tool uniquely designed for disseminating information without quality controls and cybercriminals are exploiting this by stealing information and disrupting organizations that use social media. It has gone from being the domain of bored individuals looking to connect and have fun to a manipulation tool used by governments to sway public opinion.

Government agencies are using bots, hacked accounts, faked accounts, and other tools to manufacture outrageous ideas. Social media has become an echo chamber that amplifies these ideas. There is an axiom that the best lies start with the truth. This is being seen with social media manipulation, as bad actors start with a legitimate news article and use hacked accounts and bots to increase the article’s visibility via social media channels.

From there, they attack manufactured arguments and comments. They link out to fake articles designed to push their agenda with the goal of confusing people, dividing opinion, and creating social disorder. Organizations must dedicate the time to understand how social media manipulation threatens their business and educate their employees on how to identify it and respond effectively. 

Cybercriminals Exploiting Culture Wars

It is easy for organizations to think that social media manipulation is not of any concern to them. They think that if politicians and governments want to use social media to manipulate the public, it is in the realm of politics and has no impact on business. But this is far from the truth.

Most large organizations are international and the political ramifications of social media manipulation can impact their bottom line. For example, if social media manipulation leads to social unrest and protests in one part of the country, then supply chains, foreign workforces, and foreign markets can all be impacted.

It is difficult to conduct business when people are scared and stressed from the pandemic, social unrest, political uncertainty, and changes in their work environment. This in turn can lead to them making poor decisions.

By simply including malicious links on social media debates, pretending to take sides in political arguments, and creating phishing scams designed to play on socially charged or politically charged issues, cybercriminals are successful in tricking people into handing over sensitive data.

Employees Lacking Efficient Cybersecurity Education

The only way organizations can protect themselves and their employees from the dangers of social media manipulation and other forms of cyber activities is by educating employees on the importance of cybersecurity. 

Training employees to spot scams, illegitimate information, replace their emotions with logic, and make decisions based on knowledge, they will be better equipped to respond to these potential cyber-attacks.

Even though some employees may have implemented some basic cybersecurity tools such as antivirus software or virtual private networks (VPNs) in an attempt to protect themselves and the sensitive information they dealt with, it didn’t necessarily mean that the tools they installed on their devices were effective as they often chose the free or cheapest tools. 

Without efficient cybersecurity training, employees aren’t aware of the security features needed to protect them from advanced and complex cyber-attacks. Will Ellis, a cybersecurity analyst from Privacy Australia advises that “malware infections and data leaks can still occur when using a VPN, which is why it’s extremely important to look out for security features such as DNS leak protection, strong encryption algorithms, and anti-virus software support.”

A good policy for your business is to carefully research and then determine which specific cybersecurity tools your employees will be required to use while working with company or customer data.

It is also crucial that organizations take responsibility to continually review their security policies and systems on a regular basis and in line with current events. Many companies failed to effectively equip their workforce with the necessary training and tools they needed to shift their work online and from home. As a result, many businesses were put in danger because their sensitive data wasn’t adequately stored and protected. 

Conclusion

One single data breach has the potential to destroy a company’s reputation and, in most cases, is enough for a business to close down permanently. Cybersecurity must always be a priority, and this was a lesson many businesses learned the hard way. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be a priority that your own business learns the hard way.



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