Top Security Threats to Look Out for in 2021

Top Cyber Security Threats to Look Out for in 2021

2020 was unexpectedly  defined by a global pandemic. Throughout the year, we have all had to figure out how to best live our lives online – from working from home to distance learning to digitally connecting with loved ones.  As 2020 comes to a close, we must ask: will this new normal continue into 2021, and how will it affect how we connect – both with each other and with our online world?

McAfee assessed the cybersecurity landscape as we head into the New Year, highlighting the key takeaways we should keep in mind to help protect our digital lives:

Hacking the Home

Home is a safe space – or is it? With more consumers living and working from home, we have seen an increase in connected devices within the home. In fact, since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, McAfee Secure Home Platform device monitoring shows a 22% increase in the number of connected home devices globally and a 60% increase in the U.S. These trends are also carrying over into mobile shopping habits. Almost 80% of shoppers have found themselves using their IoT devices to make more purchases since the beginning of the pandemic. The evolving world of the connected lifestyle gives hackers more potential entry points to homes and consumers information- through devices, apps and web services- and in 2021, we will be monitoring how this trend evolves.

With more of us working remotely, distance learning, and seeking online entertainment, cybercriminals will look to exploit our vulnerabilities. For example, remote employees are more likely to use personal devices while working and log onto home networks that are not fully secured. What’s more, many of the systems behind consumer networks have not had their passwords changed from the default settings since it was first introduced into the home . If a criminal can use the default credentials to hack the consumer’s network infrastructure, they may also gain access to other network devices – whether they are used for school, work, or leisure.

New Mobile Payment Scams

Touchless solutions for payments are becoming more popular as we all navigate the curveballs of COVID-19. Mobile payment apps provide the convenience of both paying for services and receiving payments without the hazards of touching cases or credit and debit cards.  However, fraudsters are also following the money to mobile, as research by RSA’s Fraud and Risk Intelligence team shows that 72% of cyber fraud activity involved mobile in the fourth quarter of 2019. McAfee predicts an increase in “receive”-based exploits in 2021, since they provide a quick and easily entry for fraudsters to scam unsuspicious consumers by combining phishing with payment URLs.

Imagine receiving an email stating that you’re receiving a refund for a concert that was canceled due to COVID-19. The email instructs you to click on the URL in the next message, fill in your bank information, and “accept the refund.” But instead of getting your money back, you find that you’ve handed over your financial data to scammers. As we continue to adopt mobile payment methods in 2021, it’s important to remember that hackers will likely take advantage of these convenient touchless systems.

 “Qshing” or QR Code Abuse

With the pandemic, more industries have QR codes to make our lives easier- with Statista reporting that over 11 million US households are expected to scan QR codes by 2020.  From restaurants to personal care salons to fitness studies, QR codes help limit direct contact with consumers – you easily scan the code, see services/items offered, and select and purchase your desired items. But do you stop and think about how this might be putting your personal data at risk? As it turns out, QR codes provide scammers with a new avenue for disguising themselves as legitimate businesses and spreading malicious links.

Scammers are quick to exploit popular or new technology for their malicious tricks, and QR codes are no different. In fact, McAfee predicts that hackers will find opportunities to use social engineering to gain access to our personal data in a single scan. Take restaurant owners looking to make QR codes that give us quick access to their menus. Knowing that these business owners are looking to download apps that generate QR codes, bad actors are predicted to entice them into downloading malicious apps that pretend to do the same.

But instead of generating a code, the app will steal the owner’s data, which scammers could then use to trick loyal diners like you and me. Once a hacker gains access to the restaurant’s customer database, they can use this information to launch phishing scams under the guise of our favorite local eateries.

Stay Secure in 2021 and Beyond

To help ensure that you are one step ahead of cybercriminals in the upcoming year, make a resolution to adopt the following online security practices and help protect your digital life:

Be cautious of emails asking you to act 

If you receive an email, call, or text asking you to download software, app, or pay a certain amount of money, do not click or take any direct action from the message. Instead, go straight to the organization’s website. This will prevent you from downloading malicious content from phishing links or forking over money unnecessarily.

Hover over links to see and verify the URL

If someone sends you a message with a link, hover over the link without clicking. This will allow you to see a link preview and check for any typos or grammatical errors – both of which are typical signs of a phishing link. If the URL looks suspicious, don’t interact with it and delete the message altogether.

Use strong, unique passwords

When setting up a new IoT device, network, or online account, always change the default credentials to a password or passphrase that is strong and unique. Using different passwords or passphrases for each of your online accounts helps protect the majority of your data if one of your accounts becomes vulnerable.

Browse with caution

Use a comprehensive security solution, like McAfee Total Protection, which can help protect devices against malware, phishing attacks, and other threats. It includes McAfee WebAdvisor, which can help identify malicious websites.

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