Cybersecurity 2019 Year in Review

To start at best 2020, we chose to take a moment to look back to 2019. It was a year with too many cyberattacks, which did the headlines both in the general and specialist press.
We’ve summed up 5 significant elements of 2019: Here’s our year in review for cybersecurity.

1/ Chronic Data Leaks

Most data exposures are unnoticed until the day a security researcher discovers the exposed data.
In the meantime, data exposed can be found and exploited by attackers. As victims ignore that their data or credentials were compromised, they can’t take away the data exposed or protect themselves; which is a problem both for businesses and individuals.
Exposed data can be used in other attacks, would it be to gain further access into a company, to gain access to another target or for a wide spam or phishing campaign.

All along the year data exposures were revealed, but one in particular marked the year: Collection#1, published in January 2019 by Troy Hunt, was a huge set of emails and passwords from thousands of different sources: more than one billion of unique combinations of email addresses and passwords.

2/ So Many Unsecured Databases

While data breaches are related to various vulnerabilities, misconfigured or open databases were a major issue in 2019 and were involved in many important data breaches, such as the one of Capital One, of, and many more.
An unsecured database even exposed some personal data of the entire population of Ecuador.

As cloud services and instances are more and more used, their configuration must be closely and regularly monitored. Cloud security is one of the top priorities for organizations.

3/ Ransomware Escalation

In 2019, ransomware attacks reached a new intensity. They target not only companies, but also any organisations, like schools, hospitals (for example in France, in Australia, in Alabama…), state agencies or cities (Baltimore, New Orleans, …).
Many successful ransomware forced companies and organizations to stop their operations for some days or had to go to paper or manual processes to keep on with their activity. 

This year, a variation in the strategy of the attackers was to threaten their victim to publish their data if they refused to pay the ransom (for example the MegaCortex ransomware). Between the risk of fines related to personal data protection regulations and having strategic information revealed to its competitors, it can be understandable that organisations might want to pay the ransom.

However, there is no guarantee that the attackers will give the encryption keys or that they are not putting a vulnerability for a later access, but it surely supports the growth of ransomware attacks. 

4/ Social Engineering Attacks are Continuously being Renewed

Social engineering attacks were a main issue in 2019 and will be again this year. Always reinvented, they rely on various techniques combing IT knowledge and relational skills.

Phishing is the most common attack and many people underestimate its possibilities, as they believe they would spot these attacks easily. However, they are continuously new scenarios and tricks. One ‘trend’ last year was for example to send a malicious link via a known file sharing service, in order to bypass email protection.

Other attacks aimed to get or change bank information. For example, phone calls displaying the correct phone number from the bank were made to get people to give out confidential information, so the attackers would then be able to reset a password to gain access to a targeted account.

Social engineering scenarios have only the limit of the imagination of attackers, that’s why raising awareness of staff (for example with custom realistic scenarios) is the key to protect businesses.

5/ IoT Under Attack

The growth of the connected devices market kept going on in 2019, but security still lacked a bit behind.
Headlines about smart locks and smart doorbells that could be virtually picked up, connected cameras that could be activated via the internet and could ‘spy’ on their owners, smart toys and watches that tracked their users… were numerous.

As the industry and application uses of Internet of Things become more mature, their level of security has to be strengthened and become more mature as well, in order to protect businesses as well as customers.