In 2020, not only was there no shortage of damaging, heavily publicized security breaches, more people were forced to do more over the internet than ever before – expanding the attack surface. Cybercriminals tactics are always changing and growing in sophistication, promising the threat landscape in 2021 will bring all new challenges. It’s no surprise, then, that the world is expected to have 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs by the end of 2021, according to Cyber Ventures. For this reason, Cisco Networking Academy offers a full curriculum of cybersecurity courses intended to educate the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

With cybersecurity now ingrained in everything we do; I want to focus on trends that impact individuals like you as well as organizations.

Here are the top 4 trends to watch for in the next 12 months.

Continued exploitation of the COVID-19 pandemic

In 2020, we have witnessed the expansion of continued decentralization. The shift to remote working spurred by COVID-19 was a vital driver of this trend. We saw many maps and fake heat maps. Now we can expect to see an explosion of free vaccine websites and phishing scams, preying on peoples’ fears.

Real or fake?

While deepfake media is now a common sight, 2020 saw a drastic improvement in their quality and realism. However, in 2021, we will increasingly be in situations unbeknownst to us. We will be engaged in communication with deepfake technology rather than with a real person.

As long as you can trust the source, and do not provide vital personally identifiable information to web robots, you can continue to marvel at the genius of engineers and avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime.

What’s the source of your AI?

More and more organizations now rely on artificial intelligence (AI), which depends on training data to perform its functions. In 2021, more hackers will get access to original training data and manipulate the models by injecting poisoned data, creating a dubious system. This manipulation will have a domino effect due to automatic processing by downstream applications. So, for example, when you purchase an AI baby monitor or other AI-enabled health devices, consider looking into if the organization has recently been a victim of cybercrime.

Social media attacks now aim for more small/medium businesses

Social media has proven to be the medium of choice for election tampering, fake news, and other attacks. In 2021, expect attackers to move beyond just targeting individuals to targeting businesses as well.

Since the social media controls around posting, verification, and URL redirection vary in how they’re managed, especially for small/medium businesses, expect new attacks, like malicious websites, to flourish. So when you think you are supporting a local business online, you might be helping a malicious actor instead.

If you want to get started on your cybersecurity career journey, I encourage you to visit NetAcad.com and for those wanting to keep in the game, check out Cisco Security.


Swati Handa

Senior Product Servant Leader

Cisco Networking Academy