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“Data Breach Pandemic: Unravel the Mystery” — Recap of 2021 and Predictions for 2022

Paulius Ilevicius
Content Writer

2021 was intense — the dramatic rise in ransomware led to huge-scale cybersecurity incidents. What’s worse, they resulted in real-life consequences — shortages, crippled infrastructures, even deaths. Data breaches were massive, and ransomware was a prevalent risk affecting critical infrastructures.

In our “Data Breach Pandemic: Unravel the Mystery” webinar, Nicole Dove, BISO at WarnerMedia; Alyssa Miller, BISO at S&P Global Ratings; and Freda Kreitzer, ex-Facebooker and head of IT at Bolt discussed what happened in cybersecurity in 2021 and what businesses should expect in 2022. Here’s a short recap of the discussions.

2021: the year of ransomware

In 2021 cybercriminals definitely got smarter. These days, they do lots of research and target high-profile victims. They also customize their attacks and no longer use a one-size-fits-all approach. Social engineering attempts have also become way more sophisticated and more difficult to identify even for tech-savvy users. So what did we learn in 2021, and how can businesses get ahead of the bad actors?

NordPass’ Webinar participants agreed that 2021 was indeed the year of ransomware. It was the most popular type of attack. Therefore, you should choose your third-party vendors and partners carefully. The Kronos ransomware attack taught us this the hard way — the world’s biggest workforce management company has been affected by a ransomware attack that left multiple public- and private-sector customers in great danger.

Know your vendors

Here’s what our panelists said about the importance of properly assessing your partners:

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This is a critical business process, so what do we do when our vendor disappears…. Instead of relying on them and assuming that they have their business continuity plan (BCP) together, maybe we should have one of our own.

- Alyssa Miller

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It also speaks to how we have to look at and perform a life cycle of continuous management on the vendors that we choose to engage with.

- Nicole Dove

So, you should always carefully assess the vendors you work with. Product lifecycle management (PLM) is one of the ways you can assess vendors and improve your product’s sustainability and efficiency. Vendor lifecycle management helps organizations to recognize the importance of vendors and place them at the heart of their procurement processes.

PLM helps to oversee the whole management cycle holistically. It also helps to centralize information and ensure that staff, supply partners, vendors, and customers are up to date. PLM also encourages strict quality control and the process of checking and testing before moving on. So, you can analyze your vendors more thoroughly when employing PLM.

Alyssa Miller said in the webinar that “a lot of vendors will sell themselves [as] ‘we’re the experts on this, so come to us, you can trust us.’” She also stated that not many vendors talk to their customers and explain that they should have a back-up plan in case they become unavailable, and they should enable their systems to easily convert away from them.

Online security as a priority

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We need to shift the conversation a little bit. Awareness is going to be such a huge thing. We cannot throw tools at problems.

- Nicole Dove

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Having things like a simple-to-use password manager, easy-to-use MFA, things that don't introduce a bunch of new friction, things that actually give you a reason to want to use them.

- Alyssa Miller

But if companies don’t prioritize their cybersecurity enough? Statistics show that 60% of small companies go out of business within six months of falling victim to a data breach or a cyberattack. These numbers show that cybersecurity should be among their top priorities.

When talking about the small and midsize company (SMB) market, Miller mentioned that most SMBs don't even hire CISOs. They focus on growth, innovation, and development instead. She also stressed that businesses need to understand that business information security officers are not there just to secure the business — their role is also to make the business effective and innovative.

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We have to align what we’re doing with security with what the business is doing.

- Nicole Dove

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It’s not security first — it’s security always.

- Alyssa Miller

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Future implications

Cybersecurity experts at Nord Security also got together to discuss the implications of last year’s developments and make informed future predictions. Here are some of them:

  • The demand for RaaS will definitely grow in 2022. The RaaS (ransomware as a service) model made ransomware software a commodity that’s easy to buy and sell on the dark web. RaaS services were present in two-thirds of all ransomware attacks of 2021.
  • In 2022 hackers will continue to target supply chains. They will remain hackers’ prime targets.
  • We will see the emergence of cyberattacks against AI. While most businesses still do not fully comprehend this threat, there are over a dozen known cases when a product was compromised due to AI vulnerabilities. That’s why many companies will need to be more careful in AI implementation.
  • A wider integration of VR/AR will open up new, radically invasive frontiers for data collection.

Here’s what our panelists said on such topics:

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The attackers have gotten very smart and how they attack is very strategic.

- Alyssa Miller

Miller also stressed that attackers will be far more directed this year.

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You can’t predict what’s going to happen, you just never know in this space…. [What] I would hope for is that the organizations leverage threat intelligence so much more, we shift to be more proactive about how we ready up for security, whether it’s cyber insurance, whether it’s leveraging threat intelligence, whether it’s training and engaging people, whether it’s getting on the front of the business initiatives with security…. We’ve got to realize that we’ve got to be a lot more flexible and fungible.

- Nicole Dove

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Something that I saw emerging this year was the number of attacks on law firms and hospitals, especially in the hospital space…. Universities are also a large emerging attack surface… I’m hoping that some of these organizations that normally didn't take security so seriously will begin to shift that now because the impacts can be astounding.

- Nicole Dove

Expert advice for 2022

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Look at these attacks that have happened within the industries that your companies are in, with the third party attacks that are happening with the vendors that your companies use, and leverage that to your advantage to challenge your third-party life-cycle management process, to challenge your own security, … segment your networks, and don’t forget about the people because they’re at the basis of all of this.

- Nicole Dove

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Understand that large or small enterprise all the way down to SMB. Your executives, your boards, they’re paying attention, they want to hear it…. I have multiple boards I reported into and every one of them is telling me cybersecurity is the thing they’re most interested in hearing about.... Understand how to be prepared for those conversations. You need to focus on the whys, not the whats. Don’t tell them what you’re implementing – tell them why you’re implementing it. That means: have a strategy.

- Alyssa Miller

Miller also mentioned that it’s not about having different initiatives, it’s about the strategy and trying out things that stick. Online security is an evolving phenomenon, so something you do today may no longer be secure tomorrow.

Tips for businesses and users

Here are some Nord Security tips for businesses:

  • Make sure to implement data backup and restoration processes.
  • Adopt zero-trust network access. The identity of staff members should be properly verified for every request of access to digital resources.
  • Use phishing drills to test your staff. Open-source tools such as GoPhish are great for such training.
  • Always watch for data leaks on the dark web to make sure to detect internal company password breaches ASAP (the NordPass data breach scanner can also help you in such cases).
  • Create a security-first culture. Educate all your employees about the importance of online security. Make security a top priority in your company.

Here are some tips for users:

  • Use strong, unique passwords and multi-factor authentication.
  • Learn how to identify phishing emails.
  • Avoid using unsecured public Wi-Fi networks. If you still need to use them, a VPN is a must.
  • Do not store payment card information in notepads, webpages, or browsers. We strongly recommend using an encrypted password manager.
  • Keep your software up to date. Updating your operating system and applications is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to keep yourself secure.

Stay safe in 2022!

You can view the webinar recordings here.

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