2021 Trends: Skilled Cybersecurity Professionals Are Crucial for Remote Work

Around the globe, remote work has steadily been on the rise. According to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy and Research, 42% of the U.S. labor force is now working remotely. With more workers using their devices at home, company resources and confidential information have never been more at-risk. As a result, the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals has never been greater. 

layer "The hot topic for cybersecurity in 2021 is the work-from-home environments, created because of the COVID-19 pandemic."

“Without hesitation, the hot topic for cybersecurity in 2021 is the work-from-home environments, created because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that will continue to threaten the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of organizations worldwide,” said Jonathan S. Weissman, senior lecturer in the Computing Security Department at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and instructor for RITx’s MicroMasters® Program in Cybersecurity.

Below, Weissman shares two top trends impacting the cybersecurity field in 2021 and explains why it’s so important that businesses arm themselves with trained cybersecurity professionals to secure digital infrastructures and tackle evolving attacks. 

Working From Home Puts Sensitive Information At-Risk

With millions of workers using unsupported devices with little security implementations, confidential data and resources are more at risk for malware and cyberattacks. Because personal devices are likely to not have the latest security patches or updates, hackers can easily bypass the firewalls on an employee’s personal computer. 

“In distributed, work-from-home environments, an organization’s resources and information are no longer protected by that organization’s security implementations and devices. A simple firewall running on an employee’s personal machine doesn’t quite compare to corporate firewalls that don’t need to be bypassed anymore. A home router from ten years ago doesn’t hold a candle to the devices protecting a corporation’s entry points,” Weissman said.

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While virtual private networks (VPN) are a vital security measure, they are not without vulnerabilities, especially when an employee’s computer is used for things other than work. 

“Even with a VPN, there’s a much larger attack surface. Incorrect configurations could undermine security very easily. Cybercriminals are even targeting vulnerabilities in work-from-home tools to exploit. Worse yet, there can be damaging compliance issues related to information being seen and stored on employees’ personal devices,” Weissman said.

Cybercriminals Have Changed the Rules of Ransomware 

Compared to the first half of the year, the daily average of ransomware attacks in Q3 of 2020 increased by 50% according to Check Point Research. In 2021, we’ll likely see even more—and they’ll be more specialized and targeted.

“With many organizations following the best practice of not paying the ransom (with backups properly in place), cybercriminals have changed the rules. The latest trend is blackmail. If you refuse to pay the ransom, sensitive information will be sold or dumped online, which can have huge ramifications. You’re not paying for the decryption now, but rather to keep private information private, and avoid a loss of reputation or lawsuit,” Weissman said.

layer "Ransomware is now more specialized and targeted for specific organizations that can pay higher ransom demands."

“As such, ransomware is now more specialized and targeted for specific organizations that can pay higher ransom demands, like hospitals. In September 2020, a patient in a German hospital died in the first ever fatality linked to a ransomware attack. The manufacturing and professional services industries, in addition to the government, have also recently been targeted by ransomware.”

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Keeping pace with the latest trends is essential for cybersecurity professionals. With remote work here to stay, companies will rely on cybersecurity experts to implement network security solutions and help set up safe and secure computer systems and networks. Learn more about edX cybersecurity courses and programs that can get you started in pursuing a career in cybersecurity or bolstering your knowledge in cybersecurity best practices.

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