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Remote work, Bitcoin, IoT, and 5G are great news for cybercriminals in 2021

Whether you are a company or remote worker, chances are you are on the radar screen of cybercriminals, and not for lack of vigilance

The Middle East & African AI, cybersecurity & big data analytics market was valued at $11.78 billion in 2019 Bitcoin theft will become more attractive There are increasing discussions and tutorials on how to abuse QR codes in underground forums

Whether you are a company or remote worker, chances are you are on the radar screen of cybercriminals.

And it’s not for lack of vigilance, although that could be the case, but rather for new fintech and technology adoption in an increasingly digital world.  

Total GCC attacks

A combined 56.87 million e-mail, URL, malware, and banking malware attacks were recorded in the GCC region during H1 2020, data by Trend Micro has found.

Trend Micro detected 41.2 million e-mail threats, 13.2 million victims; and 61,314 URL hosted attacks. It recorded 2.4 million malware detections and another 2,294 banking malware detections in the region.

Cyber market forecasts

The Middle East & African AI, cybersecurity & big data analytics market was valued at $11.78 billion in 2019, and it is expected to reach $28.36 bn by 2025.

Rapid digitalization in the UAE and Saudi Arabia has triggered a high number of connected devices in the region.

The growing penetration of IoT has resulted in a notable increase in cybercriminal activity and capability. Wide-scale, coordinated attacks that rely on IoT to spread in company networks can result in a major disruption, aka DDoS.

According to a survey by Motivate Media Group, 29% believed account compromise will continue to be the UAE’s biggest cyber threat over the next 3 years, followed by DDoS attacks (28%) and phishing (19%).

Read: Remote work cyber protection lacking: GCC region under attack

Threat predictions 

In 2021, many financial cybercriminals are likely to target Bitcoin more often, while other cybercriminals will switch to transit cryptocurrencies when demanding payment from victims for enhanced privacy. 

These are the key predictions from Kaspersky regarding anticipated changes in the financial sector’s threat landscape. 

MageCarting. So-called JS-skimming (the method of stealing payment card data from e-commerce platforms) attacks will move to the server-side as evidence shows there are fewer threat actors relying on client-side attacks that use JavaScript.  

Transition currencies. Special technical capabilities for monitoring and seizing Bitcoin accounts will prompt a shift in the methods used by many cybercriminals to demand payment. 

Other privacy-enhanced currencies such as Monero are likely to be used as a first transition currency, with the funds being later converted to other cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, to cover criminals’ tracks.

Extortion on the rise. Threat actors behind targeted ransomware systematically increased the amounts victims were expected to pay in exchange for not publishing stolen information. Now Kaspersky researchers anticipate even higher growth in extortion attempts as a means to obtain money. 

Zero-day exploits.  Ransomware groups who managed to accumulate funds as a result of a number of successful attacks in 2020 will start purchasing expensive 0-day exploits, which are vulnerable areas undetected by developers tasked to protect their systems but spotted by rogue researchers. 

Bitcoin theft. Bitcoin theft will become more attractive as many nations plummet into poverty as a result of the pandemic. Due to the weakness of local currencies, more people may focus on fraud that demands Bitcoin, as well as Bitcoin theft, since it is the most widespread cryptocurrency.

Read: Protecting Mac OS against cyber attacks in the GCC and beyond

Security for connected networks 

Many homes may have between 20 and 50 things connecting to home Wi-Fi hubs, with the increase in smart home devices, including doorbells, TVs, digital assistants, as well as a plethora of family phones, tablets, wearables, and computers. 

A Palo Alto IoT security research report found more non-business devices are coming onto networks, with everything from connected teddy bears to medical devices and electric vehicles now needing to be secured alongside business IoT. 

Security policies are being relaxed with the need to allow staff to use their devices at home, for example, enabling USB ports to allow home screens and printers, or other requirements. End devices and things around them become bigger risks of access into a business’s critical systems and information.

Contactless is not even safe. Palo Alto Unit 42 threat intelligence has uncovered examples of QR codes being exploited and has seen increasing discussions and tutorials on how to abuse QR codes in underground forums. Criminals will focus on immature contactless processes or changes to mature trusted ones where criminals can either intercept financial transactions or compromise systems to gain identity or other personal information.

Exploiting employee fatigue: As many of us are now living online for between 10 and 12 hours a day, we’ll see more human errors causing cybersecurity issues purely driven by employee fatigue or complacency. One can no longer just assume that because core business apps are routing back through the corporate VPN that all is as it should be.

5G deployment: Huge investments are being made for 5G’s deployment, and when it happens in 2021 it will be the year we see cybercriminals really probe these spaces.