Industry Intel

Unexpected Side Effects: How COVID-19 Affected our Click Habits

Phishing has been around for ages and continues to be one of the most common threats that businesses and home users face today. But it’s not like we haven’t all been hearing about the dangers of phishing for years. So why do people still click? That’s what we wanted...

Key Considerations When Selecting a Web Classification Vendor

Since launching our web classification service in 2006, we’ve seen tremendous interest in our threat and web classification services, along with an evolution of the types and sizes of cybersecurity vendors and service providers looking to integrate this type of...

4 Ways MSPs Can Fine-Tune Their Cybersecurity Go-To-Market Strategy

Today’s work-from-home environment has created an abundance of opportunities for offering new cybersecurity services in addition to your existing business. With cyberattacks increasing in frequency and sophistication, business owners and managers need protection now...

Ransomware: The Bread and Butter of Cybercriminals

Imagine a thief walks into your home and rummages through your personal belongings. But instead of stealing them, he locks all your valuables into a safe and forces you to pay a ransom for the key to unlock the safe. What choice do you have? Substitute your digital...

We Finally Got Businesses to Talk About Their Run-ins With Ransomware. Here’s What They Said.

“It is a nightmare. Do all you can to prevent ransomware.”
 
– A survey respondent

Many businesses are hesitant to talk about their experiences with ransomware. It can be uncomfortable to cop being hit. Whether it’s shame at not doing more to prevent it, the risk of additional bad publicity from discussing it or some other reason, companies tend to be tight-lipped about these types of breaches.

By offering anonymity in exchange for invaluable quantitative and qualitative data, Webroot and professional researchers surveyed hundreds of business leaders and IT professionals about their experiences with ransomware attacks.

Perhaps the most surprising finding from our survey, and certainly one that presents broader implications for those involved, is that the ransom demanded by attackers is only a small part of the loss that accompanies these crimes. There are also lost hours of productivity, reputational suffering, neutralized customer loyalty, data that remains unrecoverable with or without paying a ransom and the general sense of unfairness that comes with being the victim of a crime.

Our ransomware report seeks to quantify these knock-on effects of ransomware to the extent possible. We looked at the value of a brand and how likely customers are to remain loyal to one after their data is compromised in a breach. We studied the relationship between the time to detection of the incident and its cost. We added up the labor cost spent during remediation.

But we were also interested in real people’s stories concerning their run-ins with ransomware. What advice would they give to those who may find themselves in their same position? Respondents talked about the inevitability of attack, the relief when frequent backups mitigate the worst effects of ransomware, the importance of a plan, and advised against the payment of ransoms.

Finally, we provide advice for defending against or at least reducing the disruptive impact of ransomware attacks. As a security company, it won’t be surprising that we recommend things like endpoint and network security. But it goes deeper than that. We stress the importance of empowering users with the knowledge of what they’re up against and implementing multiple layers of defense.

Most importantly – no matter how comprehensive or scattershot a business’s protection is – is that that it’s are in place before it’s needed. During the fight is not the time to be building battlements. If your organization has avoided the scourge of ransomware so far, that’s excellent. But IT administrators and other decision-makers shouldn’t count on their luck holding out forever.

Here are a few of the report’s most enticing findings, but be sure the download the full eBook to access all of the insights it delivers.

KEY FINDINGS

  • 50% of ransomware demands were more than $50k
  • 40% of ransomware attacks consumed 8 or more man-hours of work
  • 46% of businesses said their clients were also impacted by the attack
  • 38% of businesses said the attack harmed their brand or reputation
  • 45% were ransomware victims in both their business and personal lives
  • 50% of victims were deceived by a malicious website email link or attachment
  • 45% of victims were unaware of the infection for more than 24 hours
  • 17% of victims were unable to recover their data, even after paying the ransom

Is the Value of Bitcoin Tied to Ransomware Rates?

With investors currently bullish on Bitcoin, is its high value driving cybercriminals to pursue crypto-generating forms of cybercrime like ransomware and illicit miners?

At time of writing, the value of one Bitcoin is north of $58 thousand. Famously volatile, a crash is widely expected to accompany the current bubble, perhaps before the end of 2021. The reason for this volatility is at least partly attributed to an event known as “the halvening,” where the reward generating supply of the cryptocurrency is cut in half, simultaneously increasing demand.

At the same time, the average cost of a ransomware incident is also rising steeply. A study by Palo Alto Networks charted a growth rate of 171 percent in ransoms paid between 2019 and 2020, with the average cost now over $312 thousand. The steepest ransom doubled between 2015 and 2020, from $15 million to $30 million.

An iron law?

So, is it fair to argue that the two trends positively correlated? When the price of Bitcoin rises we should expect ransomware activity to rise with it? Not necessarily, says threat researcher and cryptocurrency expert Tyler Moffitt.

For one, Moffitt cautions it’s important to keep the relative values of U.S. dollars and the various cryptocurrencies in mind when comparing the cost of ransomware. Demanding $50 million in Monero last month for hacking the Taiwanese PC manufacturer Acer and demanding $10 million in Bitcoin for a hack last year will not have netted cybercriminals the same amount. Patient ones, at least.

“Ransomware actors can always grow their demands based on the value of the U.S. dollar,” says Moffitt. “But they have the added benefit of being able grow profits exponentially by riding the Bitcoin market.”

As could be expected with such a volatile asset, these swings sometimes happen quickly. Like when ransomware actors had Baltimore’s public schools between a rock and hard place with WannaCry. The price of Bitcoin had crashed in 2018, but as the ransom demand was on the desk of the city the price surged, sending the total value of the ransom up with it.

In a sense, it’s the volatility of Bitcoin that undermines any direct, positive relationship with ransomware rates. While it’s tempting to see today’s sky-high price and assume cybercriminals would rush to get their slice of that pie, they too know how markets work. It’s possible a ransom of Bitcoin this year could be worth far less next year. For ransomware actors, it’s better to ride out the market, treating their Bitcoin stash like a cybercrime savings plan for aging hackers.

“A lot of ransomware actors aren’t turning their Bitcoin into cash as soon as they get it,” says Moffitt. “Many of them live cheaply on the hope that the $200 million they made in their cybercrime careers will one day net them billions.”

A more direct relationship

Cryptojacking—the process of secretly hijacking a victim’s computing power to generate cryptocurrency—has a much simpler relationship with the value of various currencies. Because miners only collect their currency after doing the work (redirected CPU in this case), it’s only worth doing when values justify it.

“With cryptojacking, we do actually see an increase or decrease in the number of attacks based on its price. So right now, in a bull year when the price keeps rising, you’re going to earn more when you mine,” says Moffitt.

Browser-based cryptojacking uses scripts injected into the webserver, usually by exploiting an unpatched server or capitalizing on an out-of-date WordPress plugin, etc. Then any browser that visits that webpage will mine cryptocurrency using the viewers browser. This attack skyrocketed from its inception in 2017 into 2018.

A watershed moment in browser-based cryptojacking followed the great crypto-crash of 2018 mentioned above. At least according to their official statement, the drop in mining profitability caused the ostensibly-legitimate mining script company Coinhive to shut down in early 2019.

“The ‘crash’ of the crypto currency market, with the value of [Monero] depreciating over 85% in the last year,” was cited by the company as a reason for closing up shop, though some researchers doubt how much truth there is to that claim.

In reality, Coinhive scripts were used by cybercriminals to mine on unsuspecting users’ devices. Researchers at Cornell University discovered that 99 percent of the sites they found running malicious mining scripts were no longer running them following the shutdown of Coinhive.

Its authors concluded, “It became less attractive not only because Coinhive discontinued their service, but also because it became a less lucrative source of income for website owners. For most of the websites, ads are still more profitable than mining.”

Executable-based cryptojacking is when criminals leverage a breach on a machine, whether through phishing, exploits, RDP, and then drop a payload that on execution will use the machines resources to mine crypto. This attack was around before browser-based scripts and is still alive today. In fact, it’s the tactic seeing the most growth during cryptocurrency bull markets.

Monero, a favored cryptocurrency for miners based on its efficiency using consumer-grade devices, witnessed a rebound during this period. Over the course of 2020 and into 2021, the value rose from around $50 to around $250, perhaps explaining why Webroot found 8.9 million cryptojacking scripts in use in 2020.

In summary, both of these crypto-generating schemes require patience from their perpatraitors. When ransomware actors land a big payment from an extorted business, they may be forced to wait out market forces to maximize their earnings. For cryptojackers, profits trickle in over time. First they must determine whether they’re worth the effort and if they too want to play the long game with their take.

Cyber News Rundown: Phishing Targets NHS Regulatory Commission

Spanish labor agency suffers ransomware attack

Multiple systems were taken offline following a ransomware attack on the Spanish government labor agency SEPE, which has affected all 700 of their offices across the country. While some critical systems were impacted by the attack, officials have confirmed that the systems containing customer and other sensitive payroll data were not compromised. The Ryuk ransomware group are believed to be behind the attack. The group were involved in nearly a third of all ransomware attacks in 2020.

Latest phishing campaign targets NHS regulatory commission

Officials for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have been received roughly 60,000 malicious phishing emails over the past three months that seems to be linked to the release of the COVID- 19 vaccine. The campaign has followed a pattern of spreading false information and requesting sensitive information for user’s NHS accounts. The use of the pandemic to scare recipients of fraudulent emails continues as many look forward to their turn to receive the vaccine.

Hackers gain admin access to surveillance company cameras

Hackers from a known collective were able to gain access to over 150,000 Verkada surveillance cameras in various sensitive locations across the globe after finding an access point available on the web. Viewable feeds included jails, banks and internal entry cameras for top companies like Cloudflare, which has since confirmed that they have taken these cameras offline. It remains unclear how long the hackers had access to the systems. They have stated they were able to steal roughly 5GB of data from the Verkada systems, which will likely be leaked in the coming months.

Ransomware distributor arrested in South Korea

An individual was arrested by South Korean police late last month after a lengthy investigation tracked ransomware payments to withdrawals made by the individual. The man in custody is believed to be responsible for distributing more than 6,000 phishing emails spoofing local law enforcement. These used malicious attachments to trigger GandCrab ransomware payloads to encrypt systems. This is the second reported GandCrab affiliate caught by law enforcement in the past year as global law enforcement agencies work together to transnational ransomware organizations.

REvil ransomware group puts 170GB of data up for sale

Officials for the Pan-American Life Insurance Group have issued a statement regarding recent outages in their systems, which were the result of a ransomware attack. Though there was a post on a known REvil ransomware group forum claiming to have taken 170GB of data from this breach, that post has since been removed, which could indicate that Pan-American could be in negotiations with the group to restore their systems.

Cyber News Rundown: Italian Banks Hit with Ursnif

Italy targeted by Ursnif banking Trojan

Over 100 banks in Italy have fallen victim to the Ursnif banking trojan, which has stolen thousands of login credentials since it was first discovered in 2007. The attack may have compromised up to 1,700 additional pairs of banking credentials through a payment processor, some of which were already confirmed to be legitimate by multiple Italian banks. The attack likely began as a malicious email using social engineering to trick users into clicking links.

Telemarketer leaves thousands of records exposed

A California-based telemarketing firm was recently alerted to an exposed Amazon AWS bucket containing over 100,000 records and requiring no authentication to access. Among the records were hours of customer phone calls and text-based communications. These contained sensitive information that could be used to launch further social engineering attacks, endangering the identities of thousands of clients. The AWS bucket has remained unsecured for more than two months since the company was notified.

Third party exposes decade of Malaysia Airlines customer data

Officials for Malaysia Airlines have announced that a third-party IT service provider had suffered a data breach that may have exposed information belonging to the airline’s Enrich frequent flyer program members for nearly a decade. While it remains unclear how many members had their information leaked, the airline has reached out to all members regarding updating their login credentials. None of their internal systems have been reported compromised.

Microsoft releases patches for multiple zero-day vulnerabilities

Microsoft has pushed out fixes for at least seven known vulnerabilities related to Exchange Servers in an off-cycle release. Four of the zero-day exploits are being actively targeted by malicious actors. These vulnerabilities were believed to have been compromised for nearly two months and are being used to steal sensitive information from within the affected systems. Users looking to deploy the patches should note that it will not cleanse already compromised systems, but would only prevent future exploitation.

Cyberattack takes PrismHR offline

Officials for PrismHR are working to restore functionality to their payroll platform after a suspected ransomware attack. IT workers were able to shut down the remainder of their unaffected systems before the attack could spread further, though the attack occurred over a weekend. The company has also confirmed that no customer information was stolen during the attack and that it is working to restore functionality from backups.

Cyber News Rundown: Dairy Farm Ransomware

Dairy farm group faces $30 million ransom

The Dairy Farm Group, one of the largest retailers in Asia, has suffered a ransomware attack by the REvil group, which has demanded a roughly $30 million ransom. The attack is still ongoing nearly nine days after being first identified. The attackers still have full control over the company’s email systems, which they will likely use for additional phishing attacks or identity theft operations. Officials have confirmed the attack was isolated to a small number of devices, but they have not been able to stop the continuing transmission of data to the attacker’s systems.

Norway to fine dating app over user data sharing

The dating app Grindr will receive a fine from Norwegian government for sharing user data with several of their advertising partners. Multiple complaints were made against the app in the past year for making users accept their license agreement without being able to opt out of third-party data sharing. The fine equates to $11.7 million, or nearly 10 percent of Grindr’s annual revenue.

Multiple zero-day exploits patched by Apple

Apple has just released patches for three zero-day iOS exploits that may have already been used. Two of the exploits involved remote execution through a vulnerability in their WebKit browser, while the other could have been used to elevate privileges on multiple devices. An unknown researcher is responsible for bringing these vulnerabilities to Apple’s attention and likely received compensation through their bug bounty program.

Global authorities take down Emotet botnet

In the wake of a push earlier this week by global law enforcement, authorities have gained control of the servers responsible for operating the infamous Emotet botnet. This organization was responsible for infecting millions of devices across the world and using them to further the devastating spread. Police in Ukraine have also arrested individuals who face up to 12 years for their involvement in criminal activities. Emotet started out as a banking trojan but has since become an entry point for other ransomware variants.

Austrian crane manufacturer hit by ransomware

The Palfinger Group, which owns companies in 30 countries around the world, has recently fallen victim to a ransomware attack. For the past three days the organization has been under a steady assault on their networks, causing major issues with email communications and other crucial internal systems. It is still unclear on how the attack was initiated or the extent of the damage since the attack is ongoing.

Cyber News Rundown: Cryptomining Malware Resurgent

Skyrocketing Bitcoin prices prompt resurgence in mining malware

As the price of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin pushes record highs, there’s been a corresponding resurgence in cryptomining malware. Illicit miners had slipped off the radar as Bitcoin’s value plummeted in recent years, but now authors are hoping to profit off the latest price increase. Researchers have identified multiple forms of cryptominers, from browser-based applications to fileless script miners used against a variety of system configurations.

Major increase in malicious vaccine-related domains

The number of domains containing the word “vaccine” has increased 94.8% in the month since the first COVID-19 vaccine became publicly available. As with malicious COVID-related domains registered since March of last year, cybercriminals are taking advantage of the pandemic’s hold over the public’s consciousness in order to turn a profit. With over 2,000 new domains with COVID-related keywords, finding accurate and reliable information has become more difficult.

Millions of Nitro PDF user records leaked

A database containing over 77 million user records belonging to Nitro PDF has been found available for almost nothing on a dark web marketplace. The data was leaked in an October data breach, which Nitro confirmed, and was bundled for auction with a high price tag. Now, several months later, a member of the hacking group ShinyHunters has released access to the download link for a mere $3.

Scottish environmental agency falls victim to ransomware attack

Officials for the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) have confirmed that data stolen in a ransomware attack last month has been posted for sale on the dark web by the group responsible for the Conti ransomware variant. While it remains unclear how the attackers gained access to the agency’s systems, many of the infected systems are still not operational and have timetable for a return to service.

Hackers leak nearly 2 million Pixlr records

The ShinyHunters hacking group posted a database containing nearly 2 million user records for the Pixlr photo editing application to the web in recent days. The group claims to have stolen the database during a breach at another photo site, 123rf. Both sites are owned by the company Inmagine. Though Pixlr has yet to confirm the breach, it’s recommended users change passwords on Pixlr and any other sites sharing the same login credentials.

Cyber News Rundown: Gaming Industry in Crosshairs of Cybercriminals

Top gaming companies positioned to be next major cyberattack target

After healthcare and higher education emerged as lucrative targets for cyberattacks in 2020, researchers have identified the video gaming industry as another key target. By scouring the dark web for stolen data belonging to any of the top 25 largest gaming firms, over a million unique and newly uploaded accounts were discovered. Additionally, researchers found credentials for over 500,000 gaming company employees exposed in previous data breaches but used for multiple accounts.

Hardcoded backdoors discovered in Zyxel devices

Researchers recently stumbled upon an undocumented admin account on multiple Zyxel devices using basic login credentials and granting full access to devices commonly used to monitor internet traffic. This vulnerability was first spotted when several warnings for unauthorized login attempts were identified using admin/admin as the username and password, presumably in hopes of accessing other unprotected devices on the network. This undocumented account can only be viewed through an SSH connection or a web interface and could be an issue for over 100,000 Zyxel devices currently connected to the internet.

Vodafone operation reveals major data breach

Vodafone’s budget operators ho. Mobile has revealed their systems were compromised late last month and a database containing sensitive information belonging to nearly 2.5 million customers was leaked. Along with personally identifiable information is data related to customer SIM-cards, which can be used to enable SIM-swap attacks that allow attackers to control specific users’ messaging services. The stolen database has been for sale on a dark web for a starting price of $50,000 since shortly after the attack was discovered.

ElectroRAT quietly steals cryptocurrency across multiple operating systems

After operating for nearly a year the silent cryptocurrency stealer ElectroRAT has finally been identified using multiple different Trojanized apps to operate on Windows, Mac and Linux systems. To make these malicious apps appear more credible, authors placed advertisments on social media and cryptocurrency-related websites that have led to thousands of installations. By spreading the attack across multiple different operating systems, the attackers increased their chances of accessing information of value.

Vancouver’s TransLink Suffers Ransomware Attack

Nearly a month after officials identified technical issues with IT systems at Metro Vancouver’s TransLink transportation authority, the interruption was discovered to be the work of the Egregor Ransomware group. While the attack didn’t compromise customer data, it is believed that employee banking and personal information was stolen. TransLink employees are working to restore systems to proper functionality, though some seem to have been more damaged than others.

Maze Ransomware is Dead. Or is it?

“It’s definitely dead,” says Tyler Moffitt, security analyst at Carbonite + Webroot, OpenText companies. “At least,” he amends, “for now.”

Maze ransomware, which made our top 10 list for Nastiest Malware of 2020 (not to mention numerous headlines throughout the last year), was officially shut down in November of 2020. The ransomware group behind it issued a kind of press release, announcing the shutdown and that they had no partners or successors who would be taking up the mantle. But before that, Maze had been prolific and successful. In fact, shortly before the shutdown, Maze accounted for an estimated 12% of all successful ransomware attacks. So why did they shut down?

I sat down with Tyler to get his take on the scenario and find out whether Maze is well and truly gone.

Why do you think Maze was so successful?

Maze had a great business model. They were the group that popularized the breach leak/auction website. So, they didn’t just steal and encrypt your files like other ransomware; they threatened to expose the data for all to see or even sell it at auction.

Why was this shift so revolutionary?

The Maze group tended to target pretty huge organizations with 10,000 employees or more. Businesses that big are likely to have decent backups, so just taking the data and holding it for ransom isn’t much of an incentive.

Now think about this: those huge businesses also would’ve been subject to pricey fines for data breaches because of regulations like GDPR; and they’re also more likely to have big budgets to pay a ransom. So, instead of simply saying, “we have your data, pay up,” they said, “we have your data and if you don’t pay, we’ll expose it to the world – which includes the regulators and your customers.” Most of the time, paying the ransom is going to be the more cost effective (and less embarrassing) option. We don’t know if the Maze group invented this tactic, but they definitely set the trend, and a bunch of other ransomware groups started following it.

Other than the leak sites, did they do anything else noteworthy or different from other groups?

One of the bigger threat trends we saw in 2020 was malware groups partnering up for different pieces of the infection chain, such as Trojans, backdoors, droppers, etc. The botnet Emotet, for example, was responsible for a huge percentage of ransomware infections from various different groups. Maze, however, was pretty self-contained. We saw them working with a few other groups throughout 2020, but they had their own malspam campaign for delivery and everything else they needed in-house, so to speak. They were like a one-stop shop.

Do you think the move to remote work during the pandemic contributed to their success?

Absolutely, though you could say that about any ransomware group. Phishing and RDP attacks really ramped up when people started working from home. Home networks and personal devices are generally much less secure than corporate ones, and cybercriminals are always looking for ways to exploit a given situation for their gain.

If Maze was doing so well, why did they shut down?

Probably because they’d gotten too much attention. The more notoriety you get, the harder it is to operate. We see this with a lot of malware groups. They shut down for a while, either to lie low because the heat is on, or to just spend the money they’ve gotten from their payouts and enjoy life. Or, sometimes, they don’t lie low at all but just rebrand themselves under a new name. Either way, they tend to come back. For example, a ransomware variant called Ryuk went dark and came back as Conti. Emotet went away for a long time too and then came back under the same group name.

How can you tell when an old group has rebranded?

Unless they announce it in some way, the only way to really tell is if you can get a sample of the malware and reverse engineer it and look at the code. One of our threat researchers did that with a sample of Sodinokibi and discovered it had “GandCrab version 6” in its code. So, that’s an example of a rebrand, but it can be hard to spot.

Do you think Maze is done for good?

Not a chance. They attacked huge targets and got massive payouts. Most ransomware groups attack smaller businesses who are less likely to have strong enough security measures. Even the ones that targeted larger corporations, like Ryuk, still attacked businesses one-fifth the size of a typical Maze target. Now, the Maze group can relax and take a lavish vacation with all the money they got. But I’d be pretty shocked if they just abandoned such a winning business model entirely.

The verdict: Maze may be gone for now, but experts are fairly certain we haven’t seen the last of this virulent and highly successful malware group. In the meantime, Tyler advises businesses everywhere to use the lull as an opportunity to batten down their cyber resilience strategies by implementing layered security measures, locking down RDP, and educating employees on cybersecurity and risk avoidance.

Stay tuned for more ransomware developments right here on the Webroot blog.

Cyber News Rundown: Trickbot Spreads Via Subway Emails

Trickbot spreading through Subway company emails

Customers of Subway U.K. have been receiving confirmation emails for recent orders that instead contain malicious links for initiating Trickbot malware downloads. Subway has since disclosed that it discovered unauthorized access to several of its servers, which then launched the campaign. Users who do click on the malicious link initiate a process in Task Manager that can be stopped to prevent additional illicit activities typical of Trickbot infections.

Scores of municipal websites attacked in Lithuania

At least 22 websites belonging to various municipalities in Lithuania were compromised after a sophisticated cyberattack allowed intruders to take control. After gaining access to the sites, the attackers began delivering misinformation emails under the auspices of Lithuanian government and military ministries. Much of the misinformation being spread revolved around military enlistment and the suspicion of corruption at an airport housing a NATO facility.

Researchers discover millions of medical records online

Researchers at CybelAngel have uncovered over 45 million healthcare records on unprotected servers. Amongst the sensitive data was personal health information and other personally identifiable data, all left on servers with a login page that allowed access without credentials. It’s likely this data was left unsecured because of the number of medical professionals needing to access, though the security lapse is inexcusable. With healthcare facilities prime targets for ransomware attacks, communications between organizations should entail strict security to protect the valuable data.

Ransomware strikes city of Independence, Missouri

Officials for the city of Independence, Missouri, have been working for weeks to recover from a ransomware attack that forced them to take several essential services offline. Fortunately, recent file backups were available to restore some of the encrypted systems to normal. At this point, officials remain uncertain if customer or employee data was stolen during the attack, and no ransomware group has come forward to take credit for the attack or post the stolen data for sale.

Data Breach Compromises Patient Data at California Hospital

California’s Sonoma Valley Hospital recently delivered letters to roughly 67,000 patients regarding a data breach back in October that may have compromised personally identifiable information and other healthcare records. While the hospital was able to shut down some of their systems to prevent the breach from spreading, the attackers are believed to have gained access to and stole sensitive data.

Remote Work is Here to Stay, and Other Cybersecurity Predictions for 2021

The cybersecurity industry and end-of-year predictions go together like Fall and football or champagne and the New Year. But on the heels of an unprecedented year, where a viral outbreak changed the landscape of the global workforce practically overnight, portending what’s in store for the year ahead is even trickier than usual.  

One thing the cybersecurity experts at Webroot agree on is that work from home is here to stay for 2021, or at least it won’t recede to pre-pandemic levels in even the medium-term. What is likely to change is how companies respond to their remote workforces. The security measures they take (or don’t), the educational opportunities they provide (or fail to) and their commitment to innovation (or lack thereof) will likely separate the winners from the losers in the year ahead.

Yes, cybersecurity for remote workforces will likely be a prevailing concern throughout 2021, even following positive news on the vaccine development front, according to Webroot experts. Another prevailing theme from the professionals here, when asked to make their annual predictions for the new year, is that a cybersecurity skills gap will continue to haunt businesses and pose opportunities for those looking to start their careers in the field or make the switch to it. As such, automation and the adoption of AI technologies will be critical to plugging the gap.

Read on for more details from leading engineers, security analysts and product specialists from around our organization for complete cybersecurity predictions for 2021. Take heart because, whatever happens, 2020 won’t be easily outdone (knock on wood).

On remote workforces and the problem of personal devices

David Dufour, VP of engineering, Carbonite + Webroot

In 2021, many businesses will continue to operate remotely as a result of the pandemic and there must be an emphasis on training employees on security best practices, how to identify modern threats such as phishing, and where company data is being accessed and stored. Phishing is going to remain one of the most prominent ways to attack users and will become more sophisticated as it’s tailored to take advantage of work-from-home setups and distractions.  

Grayson Milbourne, security intelligence director, Carbonite + Webroot

The biggest change for 2021 will be securing remote workforces and remote perimeters, which include home networks and home devices, particularly personal devices. These all add their own challenges. Home networks and their configurations are diverse. Many use out-of-date routers with insecure settings. Personal devices are often used for work and, as we saw in our 2020 Threat Report, are twice as likely as business devices to encounter infections. If not addressed, this could have a serious impact on businesses in the coming year.

Hal Lonas, CTO and SVP of SMB engineering, Carbonite + Webroot

We shouldn’t overlook the incredible societal and behavioral changes underway right now. These put all of us in new situations we’ve never encountered before. These new contexts create new opportunities for social engineering attacks like phishing and scare tactics to get us to open emails and click on fraudulent links.

Tyler Moffitt, Sr. security analyst, Carbonite + Webroot

It really doesn’t matter the company or the length of the work-from-home stint, one thing that’s constant is that professionals at home are using their personal devices and personal network. Securing the remote perimeter is going to be the biggest challenge for cybersecurity professionals now through 2021 because laptops issued to professional workforce are much more secure than personal devices.

Personal devices are twice as likely to be infected than business devices. Even more worrying, we saw with our new COVID-19 report that one-third of Americans will use personal devices when working from home. Businesses will need to account for that.

Jamie Zajac, VP of product management, Carbonite + Webroot

I predict that in 2021 vulnerable industries like hospitality, travel and retail will start to use even more remote access platforms like Square and others. This transfers a lot of control to a third-party, so it’s essential companies make sure their data is protected on their end, that their vendors are trustworthy and that their reputation is safe from the damage an internal breach could cause

On the cybersecurity skills shortage

Briana Butler, engineering services manager, Carbonite + Webroot

Moving forward, cybersecurity professionals will need greater data analysis skills to be able to look at large sets of data and synthesize the information so organizations can derive actionable value from it. In 2021, organizations need to start implementing programs to upskill their current cybersecurity workforce to focus on the skills they’ll need for the future such as analyzing complex data, developing algorithms, and understanding machine learning techniques.

David Dufour, VP of engineering, Carbonite + Webroot

The cyber skills gap will continue to be an issue in 2021 because companies continue to believe they understand cybersecurity and, as a result, tend to spend less on external cybersecurity resources. This leads to a feeling of false security and, unfortunately, inadequate security.

Cybersecurity requires a financial investment to truly meet an organizations’ needs and to enact processes for securing systems. It’s much more effective to invest in a few, solid security processes and to address gaps at the outset than it is to implement an inexpensive, broad security solution that falls short in key areas.

Hal Lonas, CTO and SVP of SMB engineering, Carbonite + Webroot

The pandemic has also changed the game for managed service providers (MSPs). They’re used to running a thin-margin business, but this has become even more difficult as their small business customers struggle. MSPs are fortunately heavily automated, but now they are under increasing pressure to deliver more with less. MSPs more than ever need automated solutions that make it easy for them to manage, secure and restore customers when incidents do occur. Some of that automation will come from AI, but auto-remediation, backup and restore capabilities are also important.

Looking ahead to 2021

Whatever 2021 is, at least 2020 will be over, right? But in all seriousness, the virus does not respect our calendar transitions and its implications will certainly bleed over into the New Year. Much has been made of a supposed “new normal,” but to truly arrive there, companies must account for the new realities of pervasive remote work and an exacerbated cybersecurity skills shortage.

If there’s one takeaway from our experts’ predictions for 2021, it’s that.

Cyber News Rundown: Global Cybercrime Costs Surpass $1 Trillion

Cybercrime surpasses $1Trillion in global costs

A recent study has put the global cost of cybercrime at over $1 trillion for 2020. This figure is up significantly from 2018, which was calculated at around $600 billion. And while most effects are financial, roughly 92% of affected organizations cited by the study reported additional issues stemming from cyberattacks. Over half took no measures to prevent or recover from common types of attack.

Major hosting provider affected by cyberattack

The worldwide hosting service provider Netgain was forced to take many of its servers and data centers offline following a recent ransomware incident. The attack occurred just before Thanksgiving and continues to cause intermittent outages for customers as the company works to restore their systems. Due to the volume of systems Netgain provides services for, they remain unsure how long customers will be inconvenienced by the fallout from this attack.

Default passwords compromising radiology equipment

Researchers have discovered that GE has implemented default passwords that can be easily found online across a wide range of medical equipment. These passwords, used by technicians to perform routine maintenance, could also be used illicitly to take control of the machines or cause them to malfunction. Users are unable to change these credentials on their own and require a certified GE tech to come to make on-site adjustments. While GE has stated it does not believe any unauthorized access has been identified, the critical nature of these machines makes this a high priority vulnerability.

Educational technology still lacking proper security

An alarming number of schools and educational institutions switching to remote learning have made no changes to their security policies or implemented any cybersecurity training for staff and/or students. Additionally, nearly 40 percent of the schools surveyed weren’t even able to provide devices for their employees or students to work remotely during the pandemic, though 70 percent had switched their regular communications to video conferencing services.

Payment card skimmers hiding in CSS

Camouflaging payment card skimmers into the CSS of compromised e-commerce site is the latest evasion tactic being used by cybercriminals. The skimmer is run by the Magecart group, which is known for successfully evading detection software and innovating to boost longevity on compromised systems. The embedded script launches during the checkout process by redirecting the customer to a new page where it begins stealing information entered into a form.

Cyber News Rundown: Biological Worries Over Malware Attacks

Biological Worries Over Malware Attacks

Researchers have recently unveiled the latest potential victim for malware authors: biological laboratories. By illicitly accessing these facilities, hackers may be able to digitally replace sections of DNA strings, causing unexpected results when biologists go to create or experiment with these compounds. While it is fortunate that this specific targeted attack was simulated in a closed environment, it brought to light the extreme focus that a cyber-attack may be capable of implementing, and the lengths some attackers may go to accomplish their goal.

SMS App Exposes Messages of Millions

Despite the weeks of effort from the developer, GO SMS Pro an instant messaging app with over 100 million users is still suffering from messages being leaked. What originated as a bug has left the messaging app critically flawed for upwards of three months, with no clear signs of resolution, as even new versions of the app have been unable to rectify the problem. The researchers who discovered the flaw were able to view video and picture messages, along with other private messages, due to the URL shortening that occurs when the messages are sent to contacts that don’t have the app installed.

Colorado Health Service Provider Suffers Patient Data Breach

Sometime during the middle of September, the Colorado-based health service provider AspenPointe suffered a data breach that may have compromised the sensitive health information of nearly 300,000 patients. The facility noticed the unauthorized access over a two-week period, but only began notifying patients of the breach in the third week of November. Officials have also confirmed that everything from names to medical history, and other highly sensitive personal information was stolen, though no reports of misuse have yet arisen.

Ransomware Shuts Down Alabama School District

The Huntsville City school district, one of the largest in Alabama, has been forced to close all operations following a ransomware attack that took place as students and staff were returning from Thanksgiving break. District officials worked quickly to take all devices offline, be them computers or smart phones, to stop the spread of the attack. Students were also sent home early, with no firm statement on when classes would resume, as the attack could take them days or weeks to recover from.

Five Arrested in Louisiana Child Crime Sweep

At least 5 individuals have been arrested by the Louisiana Cyber Crime Unit, following an investigation into the online exploitation of children. By tracing IP addresses and even simply viewing social media profiles of all 5 individuals, law enforcement agents have been able to confirm charges of possession or creation of child pornography, thus removing another group of child predators from the general population.