Remote Work is Here to Stay, and Other Cybersecurity Predictions for 2021

Author: Kyle Fiehler of Webroot, an OpenText business

The cybersecurity industry and end-of-year predictions go together like Fall and football or champagne and the New Year. But on the heels of an unprecedented year, where a viral outbreak changed the landscape of the global workforce practically overnight, portending what’s in store for the year ahead is even trickier than usual.

One thing the cybersecurity experts at Webroot agree on is that work from home is here to stay for 2021, or at least it won’t recede to pre-pandemic levels in even the medium-term. What is likely to change is how companies respond to their remote workforces. The security measures they take (or don’t), the educational opportunities they provide (or fail to) and their commitment to innovation (or lack thereof) will likely separate the winners from the losers in the year ahead.

Yes, cybersecurity for remote workforces will likely be a prevailing concern throughout 2021, even following positive news on the vaccine development front, according to Webroot experts. Another prevailing theme from the professionals here, when asked to make their annual predictions for the new year, is that a cybersecurity skills gap will continue to haunt businesses and pose opportunities for those looking to start their careers in the field or make the switch to it. As such, automation and the adoption of AI technologies will be critical to plugging the gap.

Read on for more details from leading engineers, security analysts and product specialists from around our organization for complete cybersecurity predictions for 2021. Take heart because, whatever happens, 2020 won’t be easily outdone (knock on wood).

On remote workforces and the problem of personal devices

David Dufour, VP of engineering, Carbonite + Webroot

In 2021, many businesses will continue to operate remotely as a result of the pandemic and there must be an emphasis on training employees on security best practices, how to identify modern threats such as phishing, and where company data is being accessed and stored. Phishing is going to remain one of the most prominent ways to attack users and will become more sophisticated as it’s tailored to take advantage of work-from-home setups and distractions.

Grayson Milbourne, security intelligence director, Carbonite + Webroot

The biggest change for 2021 will be securing remote workforces and remote perimeters, which include home networks and home devices, particularly personal devices. These all add their own challenges. Home networks and their configurations are diverse. Many use out-of-date routers with insecure settings. Personal devices are often used for work and, as we saw in our 2020 Threat Report, are twice as likely as business devices to encounter infections. If not addressed, this could have a serious impact on businesses in the coming year.

Hal Lonas, CTO and SVP of SMB engineering, Carbonite + Webroot

We shouldn’t overlook the incredible societal and behavioral changes underway right now. These put all of us in new situations we’ve never encountered before. These new contexts create new opportunities for social engineering attacks like phishing and scare tactics to get us to open emails and click on fraudulent links.

Tyler Moffitt, Sr. security analyst, Carbonite + Webroot

It really doesn’t matter the company or the length of the work-from-home stint, one thing that’s constant is that professionals at home are using their personal devices and personal network. Securing the remote perimeter is going to be the biggest challenge for cybersecurity professionals now through 2021 because laptops issued to professional workforce are much more secure than personal devices.

Personal devices are twice as likely to be infected than business devices. Even more worrying, we saw with our new COVID-19 report that one-third of Americans will use personal devices when working from home. Businesses will need to account for that.

Jamie Zajac, VP of product management, Carbonite + Webroot

I predict that in 2021 vulnerable industries like hospitality, travel and retail will start to use even more remote access platforms like Square and others. This transfers a lot of control to a third-party, so it’s essential companies make sure their data is protected on their end, that their vendors are trustworthy and that their reputation is safe from the damage an internal breach could cause

On the cybersecurity skills shortage

Briana Butler, engineering services manager, Carbonite + Webroot

Moving forward, cybersecurity professionals will need greater data analysis skills to be able to look at large sets of data and synthesize the information so organizations can derive actionable value from it. In 2021, organizations need to start implementing programs to upskill their current cybersecurity workforce to focus on the skills they’ll need for the future such as analyzing complex data, developing algorithms, and understanding machine learning techniques.

David Dufour, VP of engineering, Carbonite + Webroot

The cyber skills gap will continue to be an issue in 2021 because companies continue to believe they understand cybersecurity and, as a result, tend to spend less on external cybersecurity resources. This leads to a feeling of false security and, unfortunately, inadequate security.

Cybersecurity requires a financial investment to truly meet an organizations’ needs and to enact processes for securing systems. It’s much more effective to invest in a few, solid security processes and to address gaps at the outset than it is to implement an inexpensive, broad security solution that falls short in key areas.

Hal Lonas, CTO and SVP of SMB engineering, Carbonite + Webroot

The pandemic has also changed the game for managed service providers (MSPs). They’re used to running a thin-margin business, but this has become even more difficult as their small business customers struggle. MSPs are fortunately heavily automated, but now they are under increasing pressure to deliver more with less. MSPs more than ever need automated solutions that make it easy for them to manage, secure and restore customers when incidents do occur. Some of that automation will come from AI, but auto-remediation, backup and restore capabilities are also important.

Looking ahead to 2021

Whatever 2021 is, at least 2020 will be over, right? But in all seriousness, the virus does not respect our calendar transitions and its implications will certainly bleed over into the New Year. Much has been made of a supposed “new normal,” but to truly arrive there, companies must account for the new realities of pervasive remote work and an exacerbated cybersecurity skills shortage.

If there’s one takeaway from our experts’ predictions for 2021, it’s that.


Author Kyle Fiehler is from Webroot, an OpenText company. Read more guest blogs from Webroot here.

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