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Automation Will Shape Cyber Security For Better And Worse In 2021

Automation will drive a tidal wave of spear phishing while helping cloud hosting providers to crack down on phishing and other malicious activities

24 November 2020: Researchers in WatchGuard Technologies’ Threat Lab are predicting that automation will play a major role in shaping cyber security attack and defence activities in 2021. Traditionally a high-investment, high-return targeted attack, WatchGuard predicts that automation tools will replace manual techniques to help cyber criminals launch spear phishing campaigns at record volumes, by harvesting victim-specific data from social media sites and company web pages. And as society continues to grapple with the impact of COVID-19, it is likely that these automated spear phishing attacks will prey on fears around the pandemic, politics and the economy.

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Conversely, the research team at WatchGuard believes that automation will also help cloud-hosting providers such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google to crack down on cyber criminal groups abusing their reputation and services to launch malicious attacks. Threat actors commonly host website HTML files designed to mimic a legitimate website like Microsoft365 or Google Drive to steal credentials submitted by unsuspecting victims. But in 2021, WatchGuard predicts these companies will deploy automated tools and file validation technologies that will spot spoofed authentication portals.

In its annual look ahead to the next 12 months, the WatchGuard Threat Lab also expects the tumultuous events of 2020 to impact the threat landscape next year and for years to come.

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Other predictions include:

Attackers swarm VPNs and RDPs as the remote workforce grows

As more companies adopt VPNs and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) solutions to provide secure connections to employees working from home, WatchGuard predicts attacks against them will double in 2021. If an attacker can compromise VPN, RDP or remote connection servers, they have an unobstructed path into the corporate network.

Security gaps in legacy endpoints targeted

Endpoints have become a high priority target for attackers during the global pandemic and many personal computers are still running legacy software that is difficult to patch or update. With Microsoft just ending its extended support program for Windows 7, WatchGuard is warning organisations to expect at least one major new Windows 7 vulnerability to make headlines in 2021.

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