Five defining moments that shaped cybersecurity in 2020

Among the many disruptions brought by 2020, cyber threats ranked in the top concerns. As we had to rely more on digital for work and social life, cyber-attacks became very real threats for most aspects of our lives: health, work, freedom, national security, and even life itself. 

Here is a selection of 5 defining moments that confirms the need for cyber protection essential for both private and professional life.

  1. In March-April 2020, the rapid shift from in-office to remote work conditions forced the limits of pre-existing IT architectures. Many adjustments were done in a rush and that affected the security posture. The attackers didn’t miss the opportunity and the number of attacks targeting remote workers increased sharply. Cybersecurity became a top priority for our employers and us, ensuring our ability to continue working.
  2. In early December 2020, IBM discovered a series of cyber-attacks aimed at the companies and government organizations that will be distributing coronavirus vaccines around the world. State-sponsored attackers (and not only) are engaging in advanced cyber attacks that can have a direct impact on our health. These may generate delays or even compromise the vaccine efficacy (ex. by manipulating storage temperature). The lack of proper cyber protection affects healthcare organizations’ ability to provide proper and timely care for patients.
  3. In September 2020 the life of a German patient was lost because emergency care was delayed due to a ransomware attack. Not only our health but our lives themselves depend on the availability and ability of IT systems to properly function. As worrying as this sounds, the cyber resilience of healthcare systems is essential for emergency treatment that keeps some of us alive.
  4. November 3rd, 2020 was elections day in the US. Much was written on the topic of foreign intervention during the election process. Sophisticated attacks, that include technical means, social engineering, and mass manipulation are (unfortunately) regularly used during political campaigns/elections. Cyber defense proves to be also the guardian (one of the many) of our democratic processes.
  5. In December 2020, the Solarwinds breach became public. This highly sophisticated attack allowed access to very sensitive information or special resources (like the attack tools used by the Fireeye’s Red Team). This breach (and others like it) have very serious consequences, including the ability of states to effectively defend themselves against physical aggression. Cybersecurity is today weaved into the fabric of our (physical) national security.

Like it or not, the pervasiveness of technology comes with great benefits but also with great responsibility and real threats. As much as we are diligent about our physical security, we need to learn to be diligent about cybersecurity: for us and for our loved ones. This involves general awareness, actions that we need to make, and questions that we need to ask.