The number and severity of cyber threats on businesses and corporations are ever-increasing, and the trend is getting worse. To help you keep up with the current cybersecurity challenges, we've highlighted the common cyber threats, the factors fueling an uptick in data breaches, and ways you can keep your company safe from digital invaders.

We've also included some surveys and research data from reputed cybersecurity firms and thought leaders to help you better understand what's happening in the cyber world.

The Current State of Cybersecurity

The cybersecurity landscape is rapidly evolving, and organizations are constantly looking for the next security updates, cyber-attack news, and other industry trends that will help them prepare for any threats.

In 2020, the total number of publicly reported data breaches went down by 48% from the previous year; however, the total number of compromised records shot by 141%. This marked 2020 as the year with the largest number of exposed records since 2005.

The takeaway is that bad actors are getting more sophisticated by the day. And instead of staging more attacks with minimal damages, they now focus on fewer attacks with the most damage.

Common Cybersecurity Threats

Cyber-attacks are broadly classified either as internal or external threats. Attackers will often use any means available to accomplish their mission. Below is an overview of the common cybersecurity threats.

  • DDoS Attacks: Distributed Denial of Service attacks happen when botnets overload the server with high traffic volumes, overwhelming the server and causing a denial of service to legitimate users. The 2020 Cyber Week (i.e., from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday) saw 65% more attacks on customers compared to that witnessed in 2019.

  • Ransomware Attacks: Here, attackers gain access to the network or device and encrypt either the operating system or individual files before demanding a ransom, hence the name. With the latest technologies such as AI, attackers may advance ransomware attacks making them more challenging for businesses to detect.

  • Zero-Day Exploits: This involves identifying vulnerabilities in software programs or loopholes within the corporate IT infrastructure, then using them to carry out an attack. Typically, these attacks occur before the corporate IT team, or developers find and fix the bugs in the system, hence the name "Zero-Day."

  • Fileless Attacks: These attacks do not create or use any files; instead, they leverage what's available in the victim's environment, such as a link, then redirect them to a malicious site. Once on the site, the victim's system is injected with malicious payloads.

The above list of cyber threats isn't in any way exhaustive. The other threats include social media spoofing, 5-G swarm attacks, phishing, SQL injection attacks, etc.

Additionally, there's been a rise of sophisticated attackers deploying attacks such as ransomware on an organization-wide scale.

Some of these attacks have self-propagating abilities and may serve hybrid motives – i.e., ideological, financial, or political. Businesses must therefore ramp up their cybersecurity measures to be on the safer side.

Before we look at ways of mitigating cybersecurity threats, let's first see the two main factors that have fueled the rise of cyber-attacks in the past year. These are:

Rapid Adoption of Digital Transformation

The emergence of new technologies such as AI, cloud, IoT, ML, and big data, has exposed several cybersecurity risks. According to Ponemon Sullivan Report, 82% of IT leaders and C-suite executives witnessed at least one data breach when implementing new technologies.

One of the reasons digital transformation initiatives are increasing the risk of cyber-attacks is the overdependence on third-party services, which do not have robust cybersecurity measures.

By outsourcing certain services such as hosting or processing IoT data, businesses increase their vulnerability to attacks.

Another issue is the conflicting priorities between the c-suite and IT security teams. According to the Ponemon Sullivan Report, 71% of IT professionals say that the rush to adopt digital transformation increases the risk of cybersecurity exploit while only 53% of c-level have a similar opinion.

The Rise in Remote Working

Work from home initiatives adopted throughout the pandemic has exposed several organizations to cybercriminals. The sudden shift to the cloud to accommodate remote workers meant that the proper security protocols were not followed, and employees were sent home to use personal laptops and home Wi-Fi.

Due to a lack of robust security controls, digital invaders can easily exploit the weakest links in their home Wi-Fi networks before stealing the employee login credentials. What follows is for them to directly attack the cloud infrastructure and bring the entire business down.

Mitigating Cybersecurity Challenges

All businesses and organizations are at risk of cyber-attack. Regardless of your firm's size or financial standing, you always want to keep cybersecurity a priority. However, if you don't have an in-house IT or cybersecurity team, it can be quite overwhelming to implement a security strategy to protect your business from cybercriminals.

And with so much information on what to do and what to avoid, you can quickly feel lost before you even get started. Luckily, we've simplified this for you. Below are the three key areas you can begin working on to stay on top of the cybersecurity game.

Invest in the Right Cybersecurity Technology and Tools

Your business IT team is only as good as the tools they have at their exposure. Besides investing in antimalware software, endpoint protection networks, and firewalls, there are a couple more tools in the market that offer advanced security.

These tools come with cloud-based threat monitoring and alerting, multi-layer ransomware protection, real-time packet analysis, etc. You can also choose to go a step further and invest in a Zero-Trust cybersecurity model based on a strict identity verification process before anyone can access the network. In other words, the system trusts nobody and asks everyone for verification.

Invest in Cybersecurity Talent

When it comes to cybersecurity, technology is just an enabler, and your talent is the actual powerhouse. By investing in the right talent, you'll have experienced people in the field, and you won't have to worry about regular software updates, compliance issues, cybersecurity risk strategies, etc.

A competent cybersecurity team will work with IT and other department leaders to identify cybersecurity risks, document internal and external threats, assess vulnerabilities, and prioritize risk responses based on the potential threats.

You should also consider employee upskilling and reskilling programs to equip your security and IT experts with modern and necessary skills to protect the firm from evolving cybercriminals.

Nurture a Cyber-First Culture

Culture is the backbone of every organization, linking people, business, and processes. By embedding cybersecurity into the corporate culture, you'll have created a stronger front against digital threats.

To make this a reality, define the roles and expectations that everyone in the organization should stick to. These could include pretty everything from sending emails, mode of communication, how to use corporate resources such as laptops, Wi-Fi, etc.

What follows is to ensure all-stakeholder buy-in from the c-suite to junior employees. This should be backed by cybersecurity training and awareness programs, cybersecurity events, reward programs, etc.

Final Thoughts

Digital attackers are constantly sharpening their skills, and businesses must stay vigilant and invest in the right cybersecurity capabilities to protect their most critical assets – data. Without a well-thought-out strategy, cybercrime can seriously disrupt and even damage your business.

Besides potential loss of data and crucial information, a successful attack can compromise your reputation and further expose your business to negligence claims and tough regulatory actions.

Additionally, you may fail to meet contractual obligations, hence losing business from partners. And even worse, customers and suppliers may lose trust in your business's ability to keep their data and information safe, hence choosing to work with your competitors.