It’s been an unprecedented year for cybersecurity. The pandemic has forced organizations to evolve at breakneck speeds, strong-arming a distributed, remote work model for millions of employees at once — and in the process, leaving corporate networks more vulnerable. Distance learning has brought IT and security issues into every student’s and teacher’s living rooms. The increase in online shopping has lured cybercriminals to take advantage via digital skimming. As we close out this most difficult year, it might appear that the cybercriminals have the upper hand.
Yet as I look back on the scams, phishing campaigns, new malware strains, and sophisticated attacks, I also see teams of IT and security professionals adapting swiftly to wave after wave of obstacles. I see Herculean efforts to keep companies up and running and students learning. I see researchers, analysts, system admins, technicians, directors, and CISOs working together to solve complicated problems. And that makes me hopeful as we head into 2021 and face new challenges. So, let’s take a look back at some of the major cyber events of 2020 and keep their lessons fresh in our minds as we tackle the new year with fortitude, resilience, and renewed optimism.
Top cyber incidents/trends of 2020
We may have kicked off this year with 20/20 vision, but none of us had the foresight to predict what was to come. Not long after the beginning of the year, the coronavirus hit in the United States and its first impacts to cybersecurity were cancellations of major conferences. However, as cases rapidly increased through March, it became clear that we had to hunker down and stay in our homes. This, of course, brought on a massive shift to remote work.
For resources on the impact of working from home on security:
- COVID-19’s impact on business security
- RemoteSec: achieving on-prem security levels with cloud-based remote teams
- Risky business: survey shows majority of people use work devices for personal use
As more and more states issued social distancing, masking, and shelter-in-place orders, cybercriminals (ever the opportunists) capitalized on the rising fear with COVID-19 misinformation campaigns, phishing emails that dropped Emotet payloads, and even APT attacks using the coronavirus as a lure. Here are a few stories featuring the ways in which threat actors leveraged public fear and confusion about the virus to their advantage:
- Coronavirus scams, found and explained
- Coronavirus campaigns lead to surge in malware threats [report]
- APTs and COVID-19: How advanced persistent threats use the coronavirus as a lure
Meanwhile, cyberattacks on organizations, a carry-over trend from 2019, picked up pace on SMBs through large enterprise. The malware of choice? Ransomware. Ransomware variants became stealthier and harder to remove as the threat actors behind them became bolder, double-dipping on extortion and raising ransom prices through the roof. Here are just a few of the notable ransomware attacks of 2020:
- Maze: the ransomware that introduced an extra twist
- Threat spotlight: WastedLocker, customized ransomware
- Sodinokibi ransomware gang auctions off stolen data
- RegretLocker, new ransomware, can encrypt Windows virtual hard disks
- Threat spotlight: Egregor ransomware is making a name for itself
Attacks on ecommerce platforms, schools/distance learners, and of course the latest discovery of the alleged Russian hack of federal government agencies and IT/security companies round out an astonishing year in cybersecurity. In comparison, the entire previous decade seems pretty tame!
For other takes on the year in cybersecurity, take a look at the following: https://www.techradar.com/news/2020-could-be-the-worst-year-in-cybersecurity-history
And for a look ahead at 2021, Security Magazine has five predictions: https://www.securitymagazine.com/articles/94223-cybersecurity-predictions-for-2021