Top Six Cyber Security Challenges in 2021

In the wake of the unprecedented events of 2020, organisations across the globe are being faced with both a significant rise in cyber crime and proliferation in the kinds of threats faced. 

Taking advantage of both the COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting move to remote working, cyber crime increased by 600% during the pandemic.1 

Cybercriminals are actively targeting remote workers and deploying sophisticated phishing attacks, posing as internal senior management, and, in some high profile incidents, as Centers for Disease Control (CDC).2 

In the face of this rapid uptick in cyber crime and the wave of new cyber-attacks and techniques employed by cybercriminals, organisations are scrambling to find ways to mitigate the projected $6 trillion in annual losses caused by cyber crime.3

Unfortunately, completely insulating an organisation from cyber security threats is virtually impossible in the current landscape. This article will look at some of the top cyber security challenges organisations currently face, and the best ways to minimise these threats. Let’s get started.

The cyber skills gap

One of the primary issues facing organisations when it comes to implementing the kind of effective cyber security needed to address the top cyber security challenges is the lack of qualified cyber security professionals.

According to a recent Ipsos MORI survey, almost half of organisations have faced problems with technical cyber security skills gaps, and around 680,000 (50%) have a basic cyber skills gap.4

More worryingly, the skills gap faced by UK organisations covers vital cyber security areas such as storing or transferring personal data, setting up configured firewalls, and detecting and removing malware. Even when it comes to the aftermath of a cyber-attack or a data breach, 32% of organisations do not have staff skilled in incident response.

These statistics make it clear that, at a time when cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated and cyber crime is on the rise, UK organisations are increasingly ill-equipped to respond.

Strategies to help: Strategic partners

Opting for a strategic partnership with a managed IT service provider (MSP) offers a tangible solution to the cyber skills gap, along with other benefits. 

Partnering with an MSP allows organisations to cover the gaps in their internal cyber security skills by having the support of a highly skilled team of qualified professionals on day one. 

MSPs offer a cost- and time-effective alternative to recruitment that reduces the need for in-house specialists at a price that is generally highly competitive with the cost of a full-time salaried position.

Remote access

Secure remote access has become a global priority since 2020, with the sudden, pandemic-inspired switch to remote working accelerating a more general trend towards decentralised workforces.

Unfortunately, many organisations are behind the line when it comes to remote working preparedness, with a lack of established protocols allowing for direct attacks while untrained staff fall victim to sophisticated phishing and social engineering techniques.

Strategies to help: Endpoint and MDR

Managed detection and response (MDR) allows organisations to outsource their remote working security to experienced professional teams. 

This reduces the strain on already overstretched and understaffed internal teams, and provides the critical management and monitoring capabilities needed for secure remote working.

Another key component of providing secure remote working is a reassessment of cyber security strategies. Understandably, organisations have generally focused on protecting their central offices. 

However, since the move to remote working, the greatest vulnerability is the unsecured endpoints staff are logging in from. Organisations need to create an outward-facing cyber security strategy that focuses on securing these endpoints from attack.

Training implementation

Despite both the cyber skills gap and the increased danger of cyber-attacks, just 1 in 10 organisations have provided cyber security training for staff in the last 12 months.5

This represents a significant risk, as two of the primary vectors for cyber-attacks are phishing and malware emails aimed at staff members and social engineering attacks. 

Without the skills needed to identify and respond correctly to the most common cyber threats, untrained staff members will continue to represent a consistent weak point in any cyber security defence. 

Strategies to help: Basic cyber security literacy 

The simplest means of addressing the issues of cyber security literacy in staff members is to organise training sessions that cover the basics of cyber security, attack identification, and response.

However, many organisations lack the skills needed to implement such cyber security training because of the cyber skills gap. The best solution to this issue is to bring in outside experts, using a managed service provider to outsource training to qualified cyber security professionals.

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Budgetary constraints

While budgetary constraints impact all organisations, they are a particular issue for smaller businesses and the public sector, where resources are far more limited and the allocation of funding is competitive. 

Unfortunately, cybercriminals are all too aware of these budgetary constraints and attack SMEs and public sector organisations actively, often using ransomware attacks against healthcare providers and other organisations who cannot operate without gaining access to their data. 

Even in the private sector, the cost of implementing effective cyber security continues to rise, and it can be difficult to articulate the sheer range of active threats and the danger they represent.

Strategies to help: Cyber security risk assessments

As a general rule, a holistic approach to cyber security yields the best results. Conducting a cyber security risk assessment allows organisations to understand their vulnerabilities fully and assess their risk appetites.

The information provided by a cyber security risk assessment can also be vital in articulating the primary threats to an organisation and how spending is needed to mitigate those risks proactively.

Ever-evolving threats

Much like the technology that underpins them, cyber security threats are constantly evolving. 

As already mentioned, during the pandemic, cybercriminals used phishing emails that appeared to come from the CDC or World Health Organization (WHO).  

To take advantage of remote working conditions, criminals have started using social engineering attacks that mimic internal emails from a cyber security department or management to fool untrained staff into downloading malware onto their endpoint devices.

The ransomware model has also evolved. Criminals now employ the double extortion method, where the system is both encrypted and private data is stolen, requiring the victim to pay to have their system unlocked and then having their private data held to ransom. 

In the face of this constant evolution, many organisations are struggling to implement a cohesive and adaptable cyber security strategy. 

Strategies to help: The cyber journey

Instead of approaching the situation in a binary manner, where one solution somehow permanently solves one problem, organisations need to approach cyber security as a journey. 

The reality is that there is no way of 100% protecting an organisation against cyber-attacks. In order to remain as secure as possible, organisations need to focus on creating a strategy that is adaptable and iterative enough that it can contend with rapidly evolving threats.

Increasingly sophisticated cyber criminals

Modern cybercriminals are organised professionals, and the tools at their disposal have also increased, both in number and their overall sophistication. 

As we look at the cyber landscape today, criminals can access complicated malware, botnets, cryptojacking software, and ransomware. Some criminals even make a living simply writing these programs and selling them on.

In the face of this increased level of sophistication and intricacy, organisations are struggling to evolve with the times and confront these threats to protect themselves.

Strategies to help: Managed services

A managed service provider (MSP) offers organisations the opportunity to outsource their cyber security needs to a team of skilled professionals. 

Top-of-the-line MSPs evolve with the threats they face, implementing new skills, strategies, and hardware and software solutions, making them a more cost-effective option than doing the same in-house.

MSPs can also support organisations with customised cyber security solutions that adapt to their client’s specific risk appetite, which in turn facilitates an increased focus on commercial outcomes. 

Use partnerships to overcome challenges

In the face of a rapidly increasing and perennially evolving landscape of cyber security threats, coupled with the issue of in-house recruiting during a cyber skills crisis, organisations are looking for new ways to protect themselves from the top cyber security challenges detailed above.

Partnering with a service provider such as Six Degrees allows organisations to outsource their cyber security needs to industry-leading professionals. 

Six Degrees offers a range of services, from a fully managed security solution to cutting-edge training programs that help organisations develop a resilient cyber security strategy and focus on data protection.

Schedule a call with us today to find out how Six Degrees can help you implement an effective cyber security strategy that allows you to focus on outcomes.

Additional reading: For more on the advantages of strategic partnerships, take a look at our blog — Four Ways Strategic Partnerships Improve Cyber Security

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