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Hybrid work trend ensures another year of online vulnerability

Secon Cyber predicts 2022 will be another eventful year of vulnerability exploits, account takeover attacks, phishing, and ransomware.

With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and much of the workforce back in the office, many people find themselves in the position of choosing between working remotely or splitting their time between the office and home.

"This work-life shift means that businesses need to continue to be vigilant and address the multiple vulnerabilities that still linger," says Secon chief security evangelist, Andrew Gogarty.

"Over the last two years, organisations have quickly pivoted to remote working and accelerated cloud adoption to support business continuity during the global pandemic. This anywhere access to business-critical data resulted in security gaps and created challenges in maintaining effective cybersecurity."

He says that as reports of multiple breaches and ongoing ransomware threats continue, Secon has highlighted ten core security risks businesses need to address throughout 2022:

Ransomware: Ransomware continues to impact organisations and remains an ongoing concern. Many organisations have matured their backup and recovery approaches over the last few years with a view of being able to recover their data and environments should ransomware break through defences. Secon says this approach has helped affected organisations avoid paying ransom demands to recover their data. However, ransomware will continue to prevail as one of the most significant risks to organisations.

Cloud Breaches: "The Cloud helps organisations improve agility through expedited application rollouts, leverage automation and integrations to simplify operations, and ultimately reduce costs to increase revenues," says Gogarty.

"As cloud adoption continues to increase throughout 2022, we expect to see an increase in unauthorised access and data breaches due to avoidable security gaps presented by misconfigurations and human error."

Vulnerability exploits: The growth in zero-day exploits is likely to become a bigger problem for security operations teams to manage going forward. As a result, Secon expects to see increased adoption of Zero Trust in 2022 to help organisations eliminate their attack surface, control access to their data, and prevent lateral movement of threats.

Increase in exact domain name impersonation phishing: Since it requires little effort for threat actors and an improved click rate, Secon anticipates an increase in exact domain impersonation phishing emails in 2022.

As more organisations move to a DMARC policy of 'reject,' the company expects to see an increase in lookalike domain phishing. Due to this, it's recommended to continue user awareness training to help users identify these types of emails.

Cyber skill shortage continues: Resource constraints can limit an organisation's ability to reduce risk, and detect and respond to cyber threats. Secon says to look out for an increase in the number of organisations outsourcing security operations tasks in 2022. It says most organisations will outsource for vulnerability management, detection and response to help improve their cyber resilience and enable constrained resources to focus on organisational priorities.

Insider threats: In 2021, the battle for insider threats reached a new level of complexity, with reports of ransomware gangs openly seeking insiders to assist them in infecting their company networks in exchange for generous commissions. Secon believes there will be an increase in organisations leveraging user and entity behaviour analytics (UEBA) solutions in 2022 to improve their capability in detecting and preventing insider threat activity.

Supply chain attacks: The supply chain remains an attractive target for criminal actors. This places a need on organisations to extend their risk management activities out to their suppliers through 2022 and beyond. There will likely be more scrutiny in supplier cybersecurity questionnaires moving forward.

The European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) has stated that strong security protection is no longer enough for organisations when attackers have already shifted their attention to suppliers.

State-sponsored activities: Cyber-attacks are expected to play a greater role in global conflicts. With innumerable and untold covert cyber espionage skirmishes launched to grasp sensitive information and peek at government and defence infrastructures, government-funded hacking operations will continue into 2022 and beyond. Thereby, Governments will likely be proposing cybersecurity policies to have counter-measurement capabilities and will continue to educate organisations on improving cybersecurity resilience.

Fake news and misinformation: As numerous events start to come back, Secon says to watch for more fake news campaigns, troll and bot accounts, and rogue marketing distributed through social networking sites and emails.

Fake news and misinformation aren't only a problem for the government, as fake news is also used to lure victims to malicious websites. Adversaries can weaponise misinformation to cause disorder for their own agenda. Deep fakes are expected to make a greater impact in 2022, thanks to various apps, web 3.0, and AR and VR technologies becoming more mainstream.

Cyber Insurance: According to Secon, more organisations will invest in cybersecurity insurance during 2022. It says the process goes beyond a paper-based tick box exercise; insurers will increase checks and validations to see how companies address cyber risk and vulnerabilities, along with their detection and response capabilities to minimise impact.

"2022 will be another eventful year full of vulnerability exploits, account takeover attacks, phishing, and ransomware," says Gogarty.

"Therefore, 2022 should be seen as an opportunity to go back and review the pivot-related changes of the last few years to see how visibility and control can be maintained to reduce business risk from cyberattacks."

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