Last year has been a mess at best in terms of the growing complexity and ubiquity of cybersecurity, and experts estimate that this year won’t be any different.
The 2020 PWC’s annual CEO survey found that top executives in North America reported cybersecurity as their top concern, with half of the respondents describing “extreme concern” over their cyber vulnerabilities. As the data breaches and attacks become more ubiquitous, with estimates equating to 1 every 5 minutes since GDPR laws came into force, organizations are bracing themselves for 2020’s cybersecurity threats.
While cybercriminals seldom discriminate, some industries are more vulnerable than others. So, here are five of the most at-risk industries and sectors to cyber attacks and breaches this year:
Small and Medium-Sized Businesses
43% of cyber attacks target small businesses. Media reports focus primarily on larger cyber-attacks such as the breaches at Target, Netflix, and financial institutions including JP Morgan, the most frequent threats have been to small and medium-sized businesses. That's why 85% of small businesses plan to increase spending on managed security services.
Industry experts say that 60 percent of SMBs will fail within 6 months as a result of a cyber-attack which can include anything from phishing scams and malware attacks. Furthermore, there are industries that appear to be cybercriminals’ favorites.
Healthcare organizations continue to be the most exposed industry to cyber-attacks this year. Data breaches and ransomware attacks last year alone cost the industry an estimated $4 billion, with the industry accounting for more than four in ten breaches as well. As experts note, it has more to do with the value of healthcare data than the state of security in the industry. Public healthcare institutions are particularly susceptible as criminals target valuable personal data that healthcare providers store and process.
IT and Telecoms
With the rollout of 5G, more devices and sensors are expected to be connected to supply chains, communities, organizations, and localities. While this will usher a new wave of the communication revolution, experts note that it poses new risks to both consumers and businesses. As it’s a switch to all-software networks and a wider bandwidth, high-level hackers can tap into these emerging vulnerabilities and have a larger attack surface to exploit. Meanwhile, the ubiquity of sensors and devices will need a newer and tighter framework for endpoint security across industries.
It’s no surprise that cybercriminals are targeting financial data from the banking and financial sector. In fact, a Clearswift survey in the UK found that more than 70% of financial institutions fell victim to cyberattacks last year. But as institutions and organizations deploy more stringent protocols and protections, some sectors within the industry remain vulnerable. While relatively small in scale, attacks on retirement accounts have enormous stakes.
A special report on cyber attacks directed at US 401Ks and retirement plans note that wrongfully removed money from retirement accounts are difficult to recover. This is becoming more of an issue as more people are putting money into their retirement savings. An article on retirement plans notes that IRA contribution limits reached $6,000 in 2019 while allowing catch-up contributions of an additional $1,000 for those 50 and older. With the plans reaching nearly $6 trillion this year, experts estimate that it’ll be increasingly in the middle of criminal crosshairs. Especially as the holders of these accounts are much less likely to be up-to-date on the latest cybersecurity trends and therefore easier targets.
Energy networks are especially vulnerable to cyber-attacks, say security tech experts. Hackers can cause widespread power outages, undermining critical security and defense infrastructure, and endangering millions of citizens.
Because hackers can gain control from close range or from long distances, they have the ability to access nuclear facilities, power grids, and power generation facilities around the world.
Phishing remains one of the top attack vectors cyber criminals employ, making the human factor one of the most vulnerable parts of an organization. According to a phishing report, the construction sector is the most at risk among industries in terms of vulnerabilities to phishing attacks. Ransomware and malware directed at construction firms are particularly dangerous as highly confidential plans, blueprints, bids, financial information, and even personally identifiable information (PII) are usually stored within one system. In addition to financial loss, companies subjected to attacks face long-term consequences like lost business and bad press coverage.
As we enter a new decade, each of the above industries will have to further adapt to the changing cybersecurity landscape to protect their data. With increased connectivity, the danger of a data breach will only increase.
Article authored by Harriet Keery
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