2020 was an extraordinarily turbulent year, with most of the world forced to work remotely for extended periods of time. From an IT perspective, this meant there was a significant focus on making sure businesses were fully operational whilst working remotely. This included, for example, a significant rise in the uptake of collaboration enhancing technology, such as Microsoft Teams, which enables colleagues to communicate via chat, audio and video.
In terms of technology, most current trends are directly driven or influenced by the COVID 19 pandemic. Whilst 2020 was about making businesses function, 2021 will be about ensuring these businesses are operating securely.
The pandemic has presented new risks and challenges for businesses of every size and industry. You can read more about the risks of remote working here. This increased risk demands the need for improved data security strategies, to protect businesses from data breach, financial loss and reputational damage.
To help you understand how to protect your business this year, we’ve outlined our five top data security trends to look out for in 2021.
Data security trend 1: Evolving threats
Over the course of 2020 and beginning of 2021 there has been a significant increase in the number of cyber-attacks carried out across the UK. Cyber criminals are taking advantage of uncertain political, social, and financial circumstances by creating more sophisticated, targeted attacks. We’ve written a blog post about coronavirus scams, with real-life examples of scams that are circulating, you can find out more here.
In fact, 2020 was a ‘boom year’ for ransomware and this is set to continue throughout 2021. Ransomware refers to a form of malware that encrypts all of a victim’s data. Once data is encrypted, the victim can no longer access the data they need. This is particularly dangerous for industries dealing with sensitive information, such as finance, law, or medicine. The attacker will then demand a ransom in order to restore the victim’s access to their data, via a decryption key. The cost of ransomware attacks can range from hundreds to thousands of pounds, potentially bankrupting smaller businesses.
In 2020, experts reported a significant rise in the volume of ransomware attacks. Cyber criminals recognised that, because businesses, schools and healthcare institutions are already struggling with the pandemic, they’d be more likely to pay the ransoms as they simply cannot afford to have their systems offline or their data exposed.
In addition to increased volume, cyber criminals have also created more sophisticated ransomware attacks. Rather than simply encrypting critical data, attackers are now more likely to steal sensitive information and threaten to release it if the ransom is not paid, causing considerable disruption as well as serious legal and reputational implications for the victimised business.
Experts predict that ransomware will continue to be one of the biggest threats in the future, not only for businesses but also for governmental bodies.
Data security trend 2: A three-tiered approach to security
With cyber-attacks becoming more common and more sophisticated, it’s imperative that businesses take action now to prevent themselves being compromised. Overall, there are three main areas that business owners need to prioritise when it comes to data security: devices, users, and email. In 2021, technology should be implemented to ensure these areas are secured in equal measure.
For now, it looks like remote working is here to stay. Regardless of the pandemic, many businesses are preparing for permanent home working. Of 70 organisations surveyed by cyber security provider Skybox, over a third said their workforce will remain remote for at least the next 18 months. As such, businesses need to take appropriate action to protect assets that are deployed to remote workforces. This includes implementing effective antivirus, managed device encryption, malware protection and more. It is also advisable to have measures in place to consistently monitor the health of devices to ensure that systems are kept up to date.
Employees are typically more vulnerable to cyber-attack when they’re working remotely. In fact, as more people work from home, it’s predicted that more employees will take cyber security shortcuts, favouring convenience over data security. Moreover, it is now more difficult for employees to ask for advice or support if they’re unsure of the legitimacy of an email, download or link. As such, businesses need to prioritise the security of their users throughout 2021. At Netstar, we suggest dark web monitoring, cyber security awareness training, password management systems and multi-factor authentication.
Email compromise will continue to be one of the most financially damaging online crimes, as well as being one of the most popular forms of cyber-attack and a particularly good vector for ransomware attacks. In fact, cyber criminals are beginning to automate their email scams, meaning the number and reach of email based cyber-attacks will see a dramatic increase. As such, businesses need to be prepared to manage a vastly increased number of malicious emails. Email security services such as, email filtering services, link protection, email archiving and security auditing will all contribute towards a more secure email environment.
Data security trend 3: Revised cyber security strategies
In early 2021, most organisations are predicted to revise and renew their current cyber security strategies to account for the rise in remote working. For many, remote working won’t end when the pandemic ends, meaning long term measures need to be put in place to protect corporate data. Even those who will resume full time office work will have been working remotely for the majority of the last year and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. In short, security measures put in place on the assumption that the transition to remote work would be temporary need to be reconsidered.
Revised cyber security strategies need to consider remote working practices and ensure the right data security measures are in place to maximise protection for devices, users, and email. Moreover, cyber security strategies need to become more advanced and comprehensive as threats from cyber criminals increase and develop, ensuring that all bases are covered when it comes to data protection.
Additionally, for many businesses, the pandemic has also had a positive influence, spurring them to start or accelerate digital transformation projects in order to ensure they’re outperforming competitors, adapting to a modern world, and delivering optimal customer experience. It’s important to also take into account digital transformation projects when revising your cyber security strategy, ensuring data security measures support all new developments in business. For more information on digital transformation and how it could apply to your business, download our free eBook.
Data security trend 4: Bigger budgets
Cyber security budgets are set to rise this year to higher than they were pre-pandemic. Although many businesses are struggling financially, those that can invest in data security understand that it’s a priority and are willing to do so. Additionally, many business owners know that investing in effective data security measures could prove more financially viable than not doing so. The risk of data breach, financial loss, and reputational damage will likely be detrimental to most small to medium sized businesses during these challenging times, which is why additional investment is vital. For more information on establishing your IT budget for 2021, read our blog.
Data security trend 5: Detection not just protection
Having the right measures in place to protect your business from cyber-attack is imperative for successful data security. However, it is becoming increasingly important for additional detection measures to be put in place. A proactive IT Support partner will consistently monitor your systems, detecting and solving potential IT issues or compromise before it causes disruption to your end user. Moreover, dark web monitoring services can detect whether your login details have been exposed on the dark web, alerting you immediately so that you can change your passwords and prevent cyber criminals from gaining access to your data. Additionally, it is predicted that over the course of the next few years, detection services will become even more advanced to keep up with increasing security threats. As such, it is extremely important to ensure you have the latest technology to detect cyber threats immediately, rather than just implementing measures to protect against them.
We hope you found this information on 2021 data security trends helpful and can use it to maximise the security of your business. For more information on how we can help protect your business from increasing threats, please get in touch.