Looking Ahead: The Cybersecurity Landscape In 2021

December 28, 2020
Jeff Ahlerich

Cybercrime has evolved over the years becoming increasingly sophisticated, leveraging the latest technologies and user behaviors. The same evolution is happening with cybersecurity. As new threats and risks come to light, so do the rising response methods and mitigation techniques. Looking at 2021 and beyond, IT security professionals should be on the watch for a few key trends.


Few companies were prepared for the onslaught of challenges that 2020 brought to our doorsteps. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, most of the American workforce shifted from commuting to their workplace to hunkering down at home. IT teams had to quickly shift from in-person support and secure on-premises networks to a remote work environment with new or expanded collaboration and data sharing tools.

Now, as companies begin the cautious transition back to work, IT teams must prepare to support and secure a hybrid option. Considering this new environment, security teams will continue taking a close look at:

  • VPN and data encryption
  • Data and user access
  • Cloud infrastructure security

It’s premature to say whether coronavirus will continue to make a significant social impact. However, it’s certain the cybersecurity framework will continue to play a critical role in the safety and security of sensitive business data.


Cloud systems and usage are not new. However, the massive shift to cloud infrastructure and solutions this year certainly is. In 2021, businesses should prepare for increased exposure to risk on cloud-based systems. Increasing cloud infrastructure security and adopting a zero trust, zero standing privileges policy [link to zero trust post] is one important step toward proactive protection of your systems.


IT security is an organization-wide responsibility. Everyone must come together to protect the business’ data, infrastructure, and stakeholders. With that said, day-to-day network security tasks typically reside in the IT department and that is where we will continue to see a skills gap. Some estimates suggest that there are one million unfilled cybersecurity positions worldwide, with predictions showing this number rising to 3.5 million by 2021.

The skills gap and shortage of cybersecurity professionals filling those open roles have driven many organizations to focus more heavily on artificial intelligence (AI) tools to help automate more of the security process. To do this, IT leaders predefine rules and templates, allowing the technology to run specific processes to ease the pressure on the IT team without sacrificing security. What’s great about leveraging AI in this way is that IT teams benefit from machine learning technology to learn and adapt to ongoing needs and evolutions. [Link to AI post] In 2021, we can expect to see more companies integrating AI-assisted cybersecurity solutions to supplement the rising demand for human resources.


On one hand, AI will be a tremendous help for IT teams to manage the growing skills gap and resource needs by automating processes. On the other, this technology provides a ripe opportunity for cybercriminals to take advantage. In leveraging machine learning, cybercriminals can attack, learn from the attack, adjust, and then attack again. What can be used for good can also be used for evil if put in the wrong hands. IT professionals should leverage AI to protect their systems but anticipate counterattacks by cybercriminals using the same technology.


In 2021, many IT teams are expected to shift from VPN access for their employees to a zero-trust network access model. [Link to zero trust post] VPN access has inherent risk attached to it as cybercriminals could piggyback the network access, potentially attacking other applications or infrastructures. This provides added security for the business network and infrastructure, ensuring user and data access is better controlled and secured across the organization. To achieve true zero-trust network access businesses will need to ensure proper user access mapping, identifying appropriate permissions.

2021 will be a big year for cybersecurity. New and ongoing cybersecurity threats will continue to emerge. As the business world continues to navigate the new challenges and opportunities that the pandemic has brought to our doors; such as, fully remote or hybrid work environments, new workflows, new or expanded collaboration tools, and more. With these changes, IT teams will need to leverage security expertise more than ever to remain vigilant and anticipate new risks.

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