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Expert Corner

Cybersecurity: Year in Review

Emil Gurevitch

Senior Security Architect

2021 has been a challenging year for cybersecurity:

  • Operators shut down the largest fuel pipeline in the US in response to a ransomware attack.
  • A ransomware attack on a Norwegian energy company resulted in the shutdown of water and water treatment facilities impacting roughly 85% of the Norwegian population.
  • The world's largest meat processing company, JBS, shut down facilities due to a ransomware attack.
  • Hackers exploited a vulnerability in a vendor's remote IT management product and launched ransomware attacks on the vendor's customers. This supply chain attack impacted 1,500 organizations. Coop (supermarket chain), one of the impacted companies, temporarily closed 500 stores.
  • Ireland's national health service (HSE) shut down its systems in response to a ransomware attack.
  • North Korea broke into South Korea's Atomic Energy Research Institute via a vulnerability in a vendor's Virtual Private Network (VPN) product.
  • Malware on airline reservation systems caused 20 airline systems around the world to crash.
  • A North Korean hacking group went after cybersecurity researchers worldwide.
  • We learned that in 2020, state actors targeted European Medicines Agency, stealing information on COVID-19 vaccines and medicines. In February this year, North Korean hackers attempted to access Pfizer's vaccine and treatment data.
  • Chinese government hackers exploited four zero-day vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange Servers, giving them access to over 30,000 organizations' data.

Although this list is just the tip of the iceberg, it demonstrates that organizations of all sizes face unprecedented challenges in defending against aggressive state actors and unconstrained cyber-criminals. As we move forward, we must focus on what matters most.

We need to look inside our organization and grow cybersecurity from within. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to security. Instead, we must understand the threats, the weaknesses, and the resulting risks to our specific organization. We also need to continue to build a security culture through positive and constructive awareness training that never blames the victim. Finally, we must focus on the inevitable attack and ensure we have the technology, processes, and programs to maintain business continuity in moments of extreme crisis.

I wish you all happy and safe holidays.