Trending Cyber Security Threats In 2021 You Should Know

Cyber Security Threats

The coronavirus pandemic has aided in the shift towards social distancing which further facilitates the remote work conditions for most of the industries. This has raised concerns regarding cybersecurity threats for businesses. As per the cybersecurity statistics, 94 percent of the cyber attacks were the result of malware sent through emails, and other phishing attacks account for 80 percent of the corporate data breaches that had been reported.

Even the eCommerce platforms face continuous cybersecurity threats such as fraudulent ID use and Credit Card scams. In 2021 and beyond, the threatening cybersecurity trends are likely to increase and come in diverse forms.

What Is Cyber Security?

Cybersecurity in the most basic form is termed as the protection of the computer systems from the theft or damage of the software, hardware, or electronic data from the misdirection and disruption of the services they provide. Usually, cyber-attacks are focused on the accessing, changing, or destruction of sensitive information, interruption of normal business process through money extortion from the users.

That being said, implementation of effective cybersecurity measures has become challenging these days as there are more devices than people and the threat actors are getting more and more innovative.

Alerting Cyber Security Threats To Watch Out In 2021

As cybersecurity is becoming much prominent these days, you need to be aware of the various forms of cybersecurity threats. In this segment, we have enlisted the trending cybersecurity threats that were present earlier, and now they are becoming more robust.


Considering the cyberattacks malware is one of the broadest of the terms. It is defined as any malicious form of software designed attacks aimed at harming any computer system. When malware finds its entry into a computer, it carries on several malicious processes like stealing data, deleting data, or even encrypting the sensitive data and folders. It also monitors the users’ activities on a computer and can go beyond that by hijacking the core computing functions without the knowledge of the users.

Some of the common malware consists of viruses, worms, spyware, and Trojan horses. Malware can commonly be distributed via USB external drives, internet downloads, and physical hard drives.

How To Protect From Malware Attack?

  • Always keep your computer and software updated. For mobiles, keep all your apps and OS updated.
  • You must use a non-administrator account whenever feasible.
  • Do not rush and download anything from the internet or think twice before clicking on any link.
  • Before opening email attachments or images, check if it is any malware link and be careful.
  • Pop-up windows that ask you for software download are mostly malicious and should not be trusted.
  • You must limit the file sharing so that you are protected.
  • Make sure to use premium anti-virus software and update patches whenever prompted by a reliable source.


Ransomware, the booming threat involves the activities of a hacker where he locks the victim’s computer of the files and folders. The hackers retain these files or computer encryption unless the demanded ransom is released. The victim would typically need to pay the ransom before the hacker unlocks the hijacked system or files.

The ransomware majorly spreads via phishing emails or if any visitor unknowingly visits an infected website. Ransomware can be devastating as it renders difficulty in recovering the affected files and folders. Some of the victims go ahead and opts to pay the ransom. However, there is no guarantee at all that the hacker will provide the control of the computer or the hijacked files back to the victim.

How To Protect From Ransomware?

  • Make a habit of backing up your files regularly.
  • If any email or link creates suspicion, stay away from that. Delete such emails and messages immediately.
  • Enable your computer’s firewall and also install and run an antivirus. Scan as often as possible for any cybersecurity threats that it might determine.
  • Security Awareness Training is a must for all organizations despite its size.
  • Make sure to apply security patches to all of your applications whenever prompted.
  • For legitimate computer applications, whitelist them. You can install an ad-blocker and script blocker to stay even more protected.
  • Develop a Disaster Recovery Plan.

Social Engineering Attacks

The social engineering attacks depend on the social interaction of the human and are not limited to the bots who get into a computer via the internet. Social engineering is the biggest security risk these days as humans are prone to conduct errors. Some reports have estimated that 93% of the data breaches in businesses come straight from the employees who engage with a social engineering attack without their knowledge.

Social engineering attacks take place when a hacker tricks its victim to offer them information or access to the data or software. The hackers continuously attempt to manipulate the victims into breaking the standard security procedures. As social engineering completely depends on human interaction, it usually plays on the emotions of the victim.

One of the common techniques is to make someone think that they are helping out someone who seeks it badly. For an instance, a cyber attacker may pose as a family member or a fellow employee seeking access to a document or sensitive data such as bank account details. It needs to be understood that a secured IT system can shield a malware attack but it cannot stop any employee from offering a password to the hacker who may be posing as a co-worker or senior associate.

How To Protect From Social Engineering Attacks?

  • Conduct regular training for the employees on how they can spot the social engineering strategies and attacks.
  • The companies must set specific guidelines for people working with sensitive data.
  • It is better to keep a common rule for the employees to not share the usernames and passwords of the company electronically. If any employee forgets any password, he or she must call and take it instead of mailing them.


Phishing is a type of social engineering attack that became one of the most common and malevolent cybersecurity attacks. In the basic form, phishing takes place when a hacker falsely uses an identity for tricking someone into providing some sensitive information, visiting a website containing malware, or even downloading malware.

Today the extensive use of electronic communication such as text messages, emails, social media accounts, and instant messaging is the reason phishing is so prevalent.

There are various types of phishing scams, but the most common one is targeting people via email. The threat actors create an email that resembles like it is coming from the bank or any government agency. The email asks you to visit a website where you would be required to enter your username and password. Another prevalent type of phishing tactic is the attacker creates a fake social media account that looks like one of the victims’ friends or family members. Then the hacker contacts the victim and asks for data or money via text messaging.

Some of the common signs of phishing attacks include:

  • Usage of generic language such as “Sir” or Madam.
  • Message contains grammatical errors, punctuation errors, and language.
  • A relatively odd sense of urgency
  • Unusual requests for sensitive data.

A common example may be emails from the fake IRS accounts asking you for personal information. However, most businesses, in general, such as the IRS clarify that they communicate via postal mail and not via email.

How To Protect From Phishing?

  • You need to watch out for instant messages and unusual emails. They may send emails with unusual greetings like “Dear Customer” in place of using your name or may have bad grammar or attach a generic signature.
  • You must be cautious while clicking any links or offering any sensitive information, even though it may appear legitimate. If you doubt anything wrong, you need to directly contact the source and make sure they have sent the message.
  • You should always install anti-phishing toolbars on the browsers. These toolbars will alert you when you visit any phishing sites.

Smishing or SMS-based Phishing

People usually think that SMS-based phishing or smishing falls under the general phishing category at the initial glance. But there are some key differences. General phishing often occurs online via emails or web browsing, while the smishing occurs via the Short Messaging Services on your phone.

The attacker sends an SMS to the victim’s phone. The SMS will contain a malicious link. The smishing attack does not start if the victim opens the text message, but if the victim clicks on the link, the attack begins.

The reason behind the increase in the smishing attack is that several email programs like Microsoft Outlook and Google have become smarter. They detect the phishing emails as soon as they reach the recipient and label them as spam. This is the reason why most of the average users do not spot phishing attacks frequently. That said, there are chances that people could get a text message and open a malicious link. The most common smishing attacks are:

  • A message coming from “your bank” asking you to send them your Social Security Number or SSN.
  • Various organizations ask you to give specific information on click on a link.
  • A delivery carrier requesting you to schedule package delivery.

How To Protect From Smishing?

  • You must never open any link in a text message. Most of businesses and banks do not ask for information through SMS messaging. They will either call you or mail you.
  • Check if there are any misspellings or just generic language. Such as email phishing, smishing mostly contains generic language such as “Sir” or “Madam” or even “Dear Customer.”
  • If you believe that the email is from the legitimate sender, make sure to call the business directly. You may also go to your online account to provide the information. This will ensure that no valuable data falls into the hands of the wrong entities.

PDF Scams

PDF scams work similarly to Phishing, where they target to force the victims to open the attached PDF. The PDF scams are done via the emails where the hackers send emails containing a PDF. They often state the PDF to be an updated security policy or any account statement. When the victim clicks on the attached PDF, their device is exposed to ransomware or any other type of malware.

The PDF scam mails look a little different from what phishing via email scams may look like. The hackers know that the people have been playing smart and guessing a phishing email might have entered into their inbox just by seeing the mail that states them to click on the attached link. Thus, the PDF scammers send emails under the shade of press release or statement balance, which people will take seriously and proceed.

PDF scams are one of a kind of cybersecurity threat much more viable in the workplace as the employees constantly share PDF attachments via email and several other messaging platforms. While in the workplace, the employees associate PDFs with the businesses and are more likely to open the PDFs and/or download them.

How To Protect From PDF Scams?

  • Conduct training for your employees so that they can watch out for unusual or generic email addresses. If anyone receives a bank statement via email, he must cross-check that the email sender is legit.
  • Closely watch if the email contains generic and unusual headings especially, the greetings part. The scammers use “Sir/Madam” instead of your name.
  • Ensure your virus protection is updated and secured on your network and computers. Even though someone opens a scam PDF, the updated security will go a long way in protecting your organization, and it will alert your IT department simultaneously.

Database Exposure

Database exposure means a security breach that exposes the database information to being stolen or hacked. Some of the hackers utilize social engineering cyber attacks for stealing the login credentials while the other hackers use malware for gaining access.

Database exposure is a huge concept especially, in 2021, as most companies use servers for hosting their customer information. The databases of most of the companies consist of financial records, customer contact information or the identity records like the SSNs or the Social Security Numbers. The database exposure duels the social engineering cyber attacks.

The data from the database exposure can be used in multiple ways. For example, a hacker may fake a local hospital’s identity and send each of the enlisted persons an email containing their names and birthdates. The victims are more likely to open the link in the emails. This is because the emails contain personal information and appear to be legitimate.

How To Protect From Database Exposure?

  • If you own a private server, you must keep the physical hardware in a secured and locked room. This prevents theft in case your building is robbed. It keeps unauthorized personnel from accessing it even with a portable hard drive.
  • Ensure that you have enabled the database firewall and the web application firewall. A firewall protects your server on the internet.
  • Restrict access to the server. Fewer logins ensure fewer potential leaks.
  • Encrypt the server data and take regular backups.

Credential Stuffing

Credential stuffing can be termed as an attack that is geared towards stealing the user’s access via the login credentials. Credential stuffing can be commonly seen if the same login credentials are used in multiple accounts or platforms. Since digitalization brings most programs online, this sort of cyberattack will be significant in 2021 and beyond causing cybersecurity threats.

When a company’s database has been breached, people tend to blame the company. But they do not realize that they were also actively involved in the data breach of the particular company as they may have used the same login credentials for other websites as well. Thus, wherever the users have used the same password, it is possible that the hackers may have exploited that too.

How To Protect From Credential Stuffing?

  • Use 2-FA or Two-factor Authentication for the account logins. This will require an email or phone verification alongside the standard username and password.
  • You must use different passwords for each and every account and program your employee’s access. If a hacker is successful in hacking one account, the hacker cannot access various other accounts with the same password that he has hacked.
  • You should never share your passwords with other people. If you possess a shared account for some reason, you must give the password verbally and not through any electronic communication.

Accidental Sharing

Accidental sharing is generally caused not by the hackers or scammers but by the human errors that they make accidentally. For example, an employee wants to choose “Reply” to a mail in the inbox but accidentally chooses “Reply All,” and the message containing important information is leaked out. Accidental sharing is a common problem, and it includes business or personal data shared via emails, social media platforms, messaging platforms, unsecured forms, and a lot of other ways. It is a particular threat to businesses where a huge number of employees have access to the primary databases.

How To Protect From Accidental Sharing?

  • Limiting the number of employees who have access to the data. With the increase in the number of employees accessing the information, the chances for human error in sharing the data also increases simultaneously.
  • Invest in user activity monitoring software as it allows you to track and discover whether your data is in danger. It also offers solutions for preventing accidental sharing.

Cybersecurity has never been more critical where the internet connects the world. It is definitely important to have updated software and hardware along with IT services. Along with this, it is critical to understand that the new generation of hackers targets human behavior via social engineering hacks. Thanks to the latest cybersecurity strategies that involve training, software, and assistance for both small businesses and individuals to fight cybersecurity threats.

Disclaimer: Read the complete disclaimer here.

Originally published at on February 1, 2021.

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Trending Cyber Security Threats In 2021 You Should Know was originally published in The Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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