The Top 5 Cybersecurity & Compliance Trends for 2021
There will be Further Expansion of M&A Activities Through 2021 and Beyond
As predicted last year, the market is set to witness mergers and acquisitions (M&As) to consolidate the market. The pandemic has slowed down M&A activities in 2020. However, the market remains fragmented and there is a demand for consolidation. As the cyber market continues to mature, we expect M&A activities to ramp up over the next couple of years especially once we emerge from COVID-19. Some organisations that understand the full impact of the shift to remote working and the threats it creates have embraced the opportunity to acquire, based on perceived value due to COVID-19. The recent acquisition of Asavie by Akamai Technologies is a case in point. Asavie’s platform is expected to strengthen Akamai’s IoT and mobile device security and management services.
After a Year of Pandemic Leniency, Regulators will Get Stricter in 2021
The regulators in the EU appear to have gone through a period of relative leniency or less activity during the first few months of the pandemic and have started to increase their efforts after the summer break. Expect regulators – even outside the EU – to step up their enforcement activities in 2021 and seek larger penalties for breaches.
Governments continue to evolve their Compliance policies across broader sectors, which will impact all industries. As an example, in Australia, the Federal Government has made changes to its definition of critical infrastructure, which brings mandates to many more organisations. Governments have shown an acute awareness of the rise in cyber-attacks highlighted by several high-profile breaches reported in mainstream media. Insider threats – highlighted by Tesla, where an employee raised the allegations of bribery by unknown third parties in exchange for exfiltrating corporate information – will also lead regulators to double down on their enforcement activities.
The Zero Trust Model Will Gain Momentum
Remote working has challenged the traditional network security perimeter model. The use of personal and corporate devices to access the network via public networks and third-party clouds is creating more opportunity for attackers. Organisations have started turning to a Zero Trust security model to mitigate the risk, applying advanced authentication and continuous monitoring. We expect the adoption of the Zero Trust model to gain momentum through 2021. This will also see an increase in managed services around active security monitoring such as Threat Detection & Response and the increased adoption of authentication technologies. With an eye on the future, especially around quantum computing, authentication technologies will need to continually evolve.
The Endpoint Will be the Weakest Link
The attack surface continues to grow exponentially, with the increase in remote working, IoT devices and multicloud environments. Remote endpoints require the same, if not higher levels of security than assets that sit within corporate firewalls, and it will become very clear to organisations that endpoints are the most vulnerable. Remote workers are often using unsecure home Wi-Fi connections and unpatched VPNs, and are increasingly vulnerable to phishing attacks. IoT device passwords are often so weak that brute-force attackers can enter networks in milliseconds.
Although endpoint security can be dealt with through strict policies together with hardware or software authentication, the difficult part is to adopt an approach that retains a relatively high level of security without having a too negative an impact on the employee experience. Experience shows that if the security measures are too cumbersome, employees will find ways to circumvent them.
Hackers Will Turn the Table on AI Security
Cybersecurity vendors are increasingly offering solutions that leverage AI to identify and stop cyber-attacks with less human intervention than is typically expected or needed with traditional security approaches. AI can enhance cybersecurity by better predicting attacks enabling more proactive countermeasures, shortening response times, and potentially saving cybersecurity investment costs. The problem is that the exact same thing applies to the hackers. By leveraging AI, the costs and efforts needed to launch and coordinate large hacker attacks will also go down. Hackers can automate their attacks well beyond the use of botnets, target and customise their attacks with more granularity than before and can effectively target the biggest weakness of any IT security system – people.
Already, phishing attacks account for many of the breaches we see today typically by employees being tricked into sharing their IT credentials via email or over the phone. As we move forward, these types of attacks will become much more sophisticated. Many of the deepfake videos we see have been made using cheap or free AI-enabled apps that are easy enough for even a child to use. As we move into 2021, this ability to manipulate both video and audio will increasingly enable attackers to accurately impersonate individuals.
Last week, trading on the New Zealand Exchange (NZX) was disrupted on four consecutive days as a result of a sustained cyber-attack on to push market updates to the public as their website crashed and as a precautionary measure, NZX halted the trading sessions. Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Andrew Milroy says, “The recent NZX attack overwhelmed its public-facing NZX.com website and its Market Announcement Platform (MAP). This meant that investors could not see company announcements in real-time, preventing NZX from complying with regulatory requirements for continuous disclosure.”
The attacks which began on Tuesday came from overseas and made NZX struggle in recovering connectivity, over a five-day period. The cyber-attackers targeted NZX through distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks which is a common way to overwhelm the network with sheer amount of traffic until it disrupts the services.
Milroy says, “It is not clear yet clear who launched the attack, but it is likely to be either an extortion attempt by a large cyber gang or a nation state attack. The attack was a very large, persistent, and sophisticated volumetric DDoS attack. A typical response to such an attack is to increase network bandwidth. However, additional bandwidth is becoming less effective at preventing DDoS attacks. DDoS attacks are getting larger and no amount of bandwidth can address the largest attacks, some of which exceed 1Tbps. DDoS attackers are increasingly focusing on the harder to protect application layer, rather than the network layers.”
The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), network provider Spark, and international bodies provided assistance to NZX to mitigate the attack. Milroy adds, “NZX has also turned to Akamai for additional DDoS protection. Akamai’s Kona Site Defender is understood to be the solution being used. The product is designed to deflect network-layer DDoS traffic and absorb application-layer DDoS traffic at the edge. Mitigation capabilities aim to protect against attacks in the cloud.”
Growing Importance of Government Advisories and Investments
In November 2019, CERT NZ warned financial organisations of several global attacks including ransomware. The attacks were reportedly from Russia-based hacking groups. In an advisory, CERT NZ suggested businesses should implement DDoS protection services, and check network ports connected to avoid vulnerabilities and not pay any ransom to cybercriminals.
Following the CERT NZ warning last year, and considering the recent cyberattacks, GCSB has issued a security advisory to all businesses in New Zealand to be cautious on cyber incidents such as DDoS and ransomware attacks. The advisory comes from the GCSB’s National Cyber Security Centre. This is particularly aimed at small businesses that might have limited cybersecurity resources. The agency has asked them to report such incidents to Cert NZ. Advice includes:
Approaching cybersecurity services providers to immediately implement any responsive actions (warning that organisations might incur additional fees)
Temporarily transferring online services to a cloud-based hosting service
Avoiding the disclosure of the IP address of the origin web server, and using a firewall, if using a content delivery network
Using a DDOS mitigation service for the duration of attacks, in case they face attacks
Disabling functionality or removing content from vulnerable online services
Milroy says, “It will become increasingly important for governments the world over to make a concerted effort to protect their critical infrastructure, data assets and especially empower their SME communities with the right cybersecurity measures and timely guidance.”
Get to know the key cybersecurity challenges that have emerged during the COVID-19 crisis and the best practices for overcoming those challenges. Read Andrew Milroy’s report titled “Cybersecurity in the COVID-19 Era”.