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December 15, 2020


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4 cyber security trends set to influence remote work in 2021

Cyber security specialist, Gregory Hendricks, explains why remote working will continue to influence trends in the cyber security market throughout 2021. 

It’s not surprising that the landscape of cyber security has changed throughout 2020. With the coronavirus pandemic forcing a large amount of businesses to operate remotely, cybercriminals are changing their targets accordingly.

So what does this mean going into 2021?

Much of the trends we’ve seen throughout 2020 are likely to spill over into 2021. And if we’re being honest, it’s hard to know exactly how 2021 will pan out.

With so much change happening so quickly all around the world because of COVID, it’s difficult to say exactly what the cybersecurity landscape will look like this time next year.

Having said that, there are definitely some areas of cyber security that will continue to impact remote working in 2021.

Let’s take a look at what they are.

  1. Remote workers will continue to be the focus of cybercriminals

If there’s anything we’ve learned from 2020 so far, it’s that remote workers are a focal point for cyberhackers – and we expect this to continue into 2021.

But why are remote workers a target for cyber attackers?

There are a couple of main reasons:

  • Remote workers are far more likely to use their own devices and personal Wi-Fi connection for their work, which simply aren’t as strong and protective as corporate devices and networks. This makes hacking a much easier job for cybercriminals.
  • Cybercriminals are aware that a lot of businesses were thrown in the deep end with the pandemic. Businesses weren’t set up for remote working, and therefore didn’t have the right security protocols in place.

Employees using their own networks and using obsolete security protocols couldn’t come at a worse time.


In March 2020, when most businesses started working remotely, global organisations saw a 148% spike in ransomware attacks. These attacks are often in the form of phishing, either by text, instant messaging, email, and third-party applications.

We do expect that as 2021 unfolds, businesses will become more adept and stringent on their security protocols for remote employees. But until then, remote workers will need to remain vigilant to threats, scams and other phishing ploys that might come their way.

  1. Weaponised artificial intelligence (AI)

To manage lower budgets, organisations are trying to find ways to merge their security solutions for remote workers – which is where hyperautomation comes into play.

Hyperautomation involves businesses automating their processes. This can be done using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), robot process automation (RPA) and other automation tools. By joining these tools, hyperautomation allows automation for pretty much any task – depending on the software being used, of course.

And with more and more businesses working remotely, automated processes are definitely sought after right now.

However, it’s these automations that are posing a threat for cybersecurity. Why?

Hackers are using their own automation to attack business networks and systems from those working remotely.

Using successful attacks as a starting point, their software will start to spot patterns of defense and identify vulnerabilities in similar systems. The data collected from these attacks is repurposed to train the cybercriminal’s systems and attack similar software.

This means that attackers will hone in on the vulnerabilities much quicker and stealthier than before. They’ll know before they attack what they are looking for, what to avoid, and how to escape unnoticed.

To prevent this happening, businesses need to use endpoint security systems – which so far, only 46.9% of businesses with remote employees are using. So, in 2021, we expect remote workers to become more accustomed with endpoint cybersecurity systems.

  1. Social media attacks

Social media isn’t just being used by individuals – businesses have been utilising their online presence on social media throughout the pandemic to continue reaching their audience.

It is also expected that cyber attackers will expand their social media targeting beyond just hacking individual accounts, and to start targeting businesses as well.

SocialMedia-Security-20Why are they targeting social media platforms?

Most social media platforms provide poor authentication processes and little verification in order to access accounts, meaning that social media attacks are easier than you might think.

Here’s an example: A business posts a link to sign up for a webinar they’re hosting. The business looks legitimate, so a remote worker clicks the link.

Little do they know, the URL leads to a malicious website that collects personal information and credentials in order to compromise multi-factor authentication solutions. The URLs could be abbreviated to cover up the site’s malicious intent.

Social media protocols and security provisions around verification, URL redirection and posting content are so poorly managed, we’re expecting hackers to target these platforms. Especially given how many more businesses will continue using social media in 2021.

Regarding remote working, employees will need to be more vigilant when posting, signing up for online events, or communicating via the company’s social media accounts. Or their own, for that matter.

According to the NSCC, “user training is extremely valuable in reducing the likelihood of successful social engineering attacks.”

So employees working from home can expect a higher amount of cyber security training in 2021.

Read more about staying safe on social media.

  1. Data privacy will still be a big concern

As we all know, businesses create, collect and store a lot of data, and these digital footprints are only getting bigger year on year.

Data is now one of the most valuable assets in the world, cited as the new oil. So, as an organisation’s digital footprint increases, so does its attractiveness to endpoint hackers. Even more so when they’re finding easier ways to access remote worker information through their less-protected home networks.

Because of this, we expect to see remote workers using VPNs and additional security measures to protect company data while they work from home. In fact, since the pandemic began, one of the top policy changes made in organisations has been to increase VPN capacity (59%) for remote workers.

How does a VPN protect data?

When information is sent via a Wi-Fi network, VPN’s scramble that data. This makes the data unreadable, and therefore useless to the cyber attacker trying to get their hands on it.

The amount of VPNs being used in 2021 is likely to increase, with remote workers being encouraged to use them while working from home.

If you’re thinking about getting a VPN, getting it from a trusted provider should be your top priority.


There are likely to be other trends in cyber security that will rear their heads as 2021 progress. With the ever-changing landscape of COVID, it really is hard to tell exactly how cyber security will influence remote work next year, but hopefully this article has given you a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Read more about how remote working impacted cyber security in 2020. 

About the author

Gregory Hendricks is a cyber security specialist with a degree in Computer Science. He has led corporate teams in analysing and implementing security operations and network solutions.

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