Top Cybersecurity Challenges and Priorities for 2021

Cybersecurity Challenges and Priorities for 2021

Written by Jackie Bilodeau

I am the Communications Director for CGNET, having worked for CGNET off-and-on since the early 1990's. I enjoy hiking, music, dance, photography, writing and travel. Read more about my work at CGNET here.

January 7, 2021

Yes, 2020 was a real doozy.   Because of the pandemic, organizations worldwide were caught off-guard by mandatory office shutdowns in the early months of the year.   Employees suddenly became 100% remote workers; global economic upheaval resulted in staff and program cutbacks.  Because of this, security vendor CheckPoint was curious to learn what organizations’ main cybersecurity challenges and priorities would be for 2021 and beyond.   They were also interested in changes to security strategies last year that were forced by the pandemic.

So last month, they conducted a survey of over 600 IT professionals.  Their findings show that the changes brought about by the pandemic have made a deep and lasting impact across all industries.  Furthermore, it appears many believe things may never change back to how there were prior to 2020.


An increase in cyber-attacks


Over half  – 58% – of respondents said their organizations have experienced an increase of attacks and threats since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.


Security strategy changes during 2020


A full 95% of respondents said their strategies had shifted in the second half of the year.  These broke down as follows:

  • 67% cited enabling large-scale remote working
  • 39% reported the need for more security training for their staff
  • 37% said they had to improve network security and threat prevention
  • 37% cited expanding endpoint and mobile security
  • 31% reported the rapid adoption of cloud technologies
  • Only 27% said they had accelerated existing security projects during 2020.

These findings – particularly the final one – revealed that for most organizations, their pandemic response did not require fast-tracking of existing security, but instead a complete overhaul of their security business model.


Anticipated security challenges for 2021


While the vaccine is rolling out and there is a faint light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, there is not predicted to be a “return to normal” anytime soon.  IT professionals forecast the biggest challenges for this year as follows:

  • 47% said that security for employees working from home would be the biggest challenge this year.
  • 42% cited protecting against phishing and social engineering attacks
  • 41% cited maintaining secure remote access, and
  • 39% said that protecting cloud applications and infrastructure would be a challenge.


Security priorities for the next 2 years


Looking ahead a full 2 years – when we may finally see stability return to our lives – requires a re-prioritization when it comes to organizations’ security efforts:   The leading priorities through 2023 respondents cited were

  • securing remote working (61%)
  • endpoint and mobile security (59%), and
  • securing public or multiple clouds (52%).

These issues were prioritized far ahead of other like IoT security and email security, which were cited by only 30% and 24% of those surveyed.


The outlook


When asked about a “return to normal”, about half of all respondents believed that their security approach will never return to pre-pandemic norms.  29% said that they expect a return to pre-pandemic operations at some point, and just 20% believed their situation has already returned to what it was prior to 2020.


The bottom line is that none of us know if and when “normal” will ever return. For that reason, you must adapt your cybersecurity protocols to the new threats that face your workers. You should rework the security of your network to include the strengthening of remote network access tools like conditional access.  Leverage the cloud for security.  And most importantly, focus on security awareness training for all staff. Ensuring that your users are fully invested in your organization’s cybersecurity strategies and protocols will be a critical element in determining whether you will be able to maintain the same levels of security you’ve enjoyed in the past.


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