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Cybersecurity predictions for 2021: the internet is changing forever

The tech-heads at NordSec have scanned the cybersphere and cast their predictions for 2021. Read on to find out what our world of cybersecurity will look like after 2020, the “fun-filled” year that crippled businesses and quadrupled cyber-scams.

Zen Bahar

Zen Bahar

Dec 16, 2020 · 5 min read

Cybersecurity predictions for 2021: the internet is changing forever

For starters, we’ll be clutching to our privacy even tighter, as everything from groceries to politics go digital and the internet as we know it splits in two.

1. Work-from-home security will get a lot tighter

By now we can all relate to the WFH routine. The security around remote working is about to tighten as companies settle in for the long haul. For organizations that lacked the right IT infrastructure, the transition to remote working was a struggle.

And let’s not forget the hands-on workers who can’t work from home – countries with more knowledge workers like the Netherlands and Sweden will secure themselves much faster than countries where up to 40% of the workforce have little to no digital skills.

2. Data breaches will break new records around the world

Online scams quadrupled in the first half of 2020, and they’re about to get worse. With swathes of people still stuck in lockdowns, our devices have become our only window to the world, which gives hackers a whole lot more to work with. The pandemic has made businesses, remote employees, and medical institutions high targets for cybercriminal circuits, and their tactics aren’t as obvious as you think. We did our own research and discovered that an email scam used to exploit a decade-old MS Office vulnerability had risen by a massive 400%.

3. Mobile malware will reign supreme

A lot of us don’t even need laptops anymore, since our phones are just as good, which is why malware targeting iOS and Android devices will soar in 2021. According to Avira, malware attacks shot up by 74% in the first 3 months of 2020.

4. Lockdowns will create a new iWorld

If your gran and grandad can’t reprogram a laptop yet, they won’t be far off once the pandemic is over. Even those who have never considered themselves netizens will become such, as we begin to rely on technology for everything between groceries and voting.

5. Reality becomes simulated

Is this real life or just fantasy? It won’t matter once e-commerce integrates with Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR). In fact, Gucci has already tried it with various Snapchat Lenses this year, and if WFH continues, we can expect an array of other mind-bending simulated experiences to satisfy the escapist in all of us.

6. Freedom of information will suffer

Internet surveillance, censorship, and restrictions are the new weapons for some governments in their fight against political unrest. So, we’re bound to see network shutdowns around the world. As we speak, Hong Kong, China, India, Turkey, Belarus and many other countries have taken action to limit the rights of their citizens.

7. The internet will split in half

Quality content will be kept behind a paywall, increasing divisiveness between audiences even further. It might also increase the prevalence of things like fake news and “trash content”,degrading the general tone of the internet.

8. We’ll ditch mainstream apps

Differences in political opinion have already created neo-societies like “Trump Supporters” and “Liberals”. Now, there are even dating apps like “Make America Great Again” dedicated to the groups. That means that we’ll ditch mainstream apps for more tailored options, but also widen existing social divides from cracks to chasms.

The more private Parler, Gab, and MeWe will also replace Twitter and Facebook.

9. Data privacy acts will get major upgrades

In a switched-on world that’s always online, personal data will be everyone’s most precious possession, which is why data privacy laws will get some major 2021 updates. Brazil, Singapore, Canada, and Kenya have already passed new data privacy laws, while others are meandering through the submission process.

10. Prepare for e-politics

Over 80 elections were held in 2020, and both politicians and hackers were caught trying to meddle with the votes. The same shenanigans were afoot in 2016, so this time governments came prepared to block potential attacks.

As part of their stimulus programs, governments will invest more in e-gov services, while some countries might choose to push even harder for e-voting.

11. Europe will be crowned the “tech challenger”.

2021 will see decades-old legislation modernized to serve our new age. The EU’s e-Commerce Directive was designed in 2000, but next year (after 20 years) we’ll see Europe finalizing their Digital Service Act in a bid to level the playing field. One of the new measures will reportedly make it mandatory for Big Tech to share the data they collect with competitors and allow competing products on their platforms.

12. AI will transform cybercrime

AI isn’t just for Alexa and robot films — it’s being used in cybercrime attacks. Cybercriminals will poison AI systems and re-train them, or use AI to identify fresh vulnerabilities in networks, devices, and applications as they arise, which may end up in an epic battle of AI vs. AI.

What about VPNs?

13. VPNs will become a necessity

Increasing government censorship, tyrannical surveillance, oppression, civil unrest — these are just some of the reasons millions of citizens will look to VPNs as a way to freely communicate and access information online. Hong Kong and Russia will also host some pretty high-profile elections in September of 2021, sparking a huge demand for VPNs for citizens to protect themselves against the aforementioned.

14. The VPN market is set to explode

The global VPN market is predicted to reach $35.73 billion in 2022, and we can expect a CAGR of 12% between 2020 and 2026. Even Google is thinking of entering the market.

15. VPNs will help us go from 4G to 5G

In five years, more than half the world will be using 5G, but it won’t come without issues. 5G will have better coverage, but it’ll result in bandwidth issues, because servers providing online services won’t be able to support the huge U/D speed. VPNs can beat bandwidth limits by hiding your traffic from your ISP so they can’t slow you down.

What about password managers?

16. Passwords will become weapons

Leaks of customer information from startups will be rife as the pandemic forces businesses to focus on production rather than security, leaving a lot of vulnerable points for hackers to attack. A greater focus will therefore be put on securing our personal accounts and taking matters into our own hands. Click here to take the National Privacy Test.

We spend our lives studying the tech world. Whether it's preparing for AI, studying cybercrime, or analyzing the social trends that it all impacts, these predictions are the result of years of experience on the front line of cybersecurity.

For more insights and data, check out the NordVPN Research Lab.