Cybersecurity in 2021: hackers target sex toys and homeworkers

Just after the outbreak of the corona pandemic, the number of hacking attempts and cyber attacks against people, companies and governments increased. The UN has already established this, but also the Dutch National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV).

And in the coming year, malicious hackers and cyber criminals will continue to look for ways to steal our money or bother us in other ways. How are they going to do that? Four predictions by cybersecurity experts.

Prediction 1: more abuse of smart devices

2020 will go down in the books as the forced breakthrough of working from home. But at the same time, more and more devices in our house are smart: there are in the Netherlands an average of five per household. From speakers and lamps to smart doorbells.

Those smart devices are often poorly secured, partly because there are no safety requirements for apply. And that’s the Achilles’ heel for the security of your work laptop, says security firm Palo Alto Networks.

Dangerous cocktail

“We secure the connection between computers and the office through VPN connections. But we don’t pay that same attention to the security between the computer and other devices in the home,” said Greg Day, the company’s chief of security in Europe.

The average household has between 20 and 50 devices connected to the home WiFi point, the company says. And work laptops, tablets and telephones are often connected to the same network.

All of those devices in our home network allow hackers to gain access to critical systems, Day says.

“It’s all devices that have poor security, such as a default password. When they are connected to the work laptop, that becomes the weak point and makes it easier to access your work laptop,” he explains.

Wifi password

It is indeed a risk, agrees Dave Maasland, director of cybersecurity company ESET Netherlands. “When you are at work, there is good security so that attackers cannot enter. You often do not have that when you bring your laptop home.”

A VPN connection can help. “This allows you to virtually log in to the network of the office. But the fact remains that your device is in an insecure environment.”

He also expects that hackers will target home networks more often in the coming year, in order to get into companies. Partly because smart devices are becoming more ‘mainstream’, says Maasland.

“Smart devices reach the general public even more if Lidl and Action start offering a range. The number of vulnerable devices is increasing year over year, so they will abuse that.”

Prediction 2: sex toys with safety flaws

Every year new smartphones are added that do slightly better or differently than those old phones. And that also happens in the field of smart sex toys.

Sales of these have also been considerable since the outbreak of the corona virus increased. Last year, 19 million toys were connected to the internet, which will increase to about 36 million this year. treasure Juniper Research firm.

But what few people realize is that those smart toys are also vulnerable to cyber attacks.

That happened only recently, with a chastity belt for men. Hackers could lock it with the push of a button. And victims, well. They could then potentially no longer access their private parts.

And we will see things like that more often, says Maasland. “We expect that we will see more smart sex toys with security flaws. Toys that hackers can then take over or block. But also sensitive data leaks.”

Precisely with such devices, security and privacy are generally not properly considered, says Maasland.

And data that says something about someone’s sexual preferences or intimate photos and videos: those are the types of data that can have quite a few consequences if it falls into the wrong hands.

Prediction 3: QR code abuse

A meter and a half away, wear mouth masks, wash your hands and do as little as possible to things that others touch. Partly thanks to all these corona precautions, the QR code became suddenly popular.

The menu gave way to a QR code, on the free market you paid via a QR code and if you travel to Greece, you must have a QR code that refers to a health certificate. And cyber criminals are going to take advantage of that, expect the experts at Palo Alto Networks.

“You can already see cyber criminals replacing QR codes on doors and other places. It is a very easy way to easily disrupt processes. People are then redirected to the hacker’s site and then continue to the place they expect. Day explains.

And during that stopover, hackers have free rein to intercept money transactions or to steal identity data or other sensitive personal data. According to Palo Alto Networks, hackers on private forums discuss how best to do this.

Prediction 4: Hackers will use ransomware differently

The municipality of Hof van Twente and numerous companies fell victim to a ransomware attack this year. Hackers disabled computers and demanded a ransom.

The same thing happened at Maastricht University last year. The university ended up paying nearly 200,000 euros to get back to the hostages. But there are also victims who refuse to pay, such as the municipality of Hof van Twente.

Leak data instead of taking it hostage

And partly because of this, criminals will apply different tactics, says Maasland of ESET. They are becoming more ruthless because some businesses are now inclined not to pay. For example, because they have made backups of their systems and can thus mitigate the risk of data loss.

That is why criminals go further and even more extreme to ensure that companies still pay. “It is no longer just about taking hostage and blackmailing. But about taking hostage, blackmailing and publishing all data”, says Maasland.

Trade secrets on the street

Hackers then leak, for example, stock market-sensitive information or trade secrets because you do not pay.

“Then it’s not about what the data is worth to hackers, but what it’s worth to the company to keep it out of the hands of the competition.”

Image damage is then an additional means of pressure. One such example is the attack on games publisher Ubisoft. “The hackers said on the internet: we were inside Ubisoft. Keep in mind that there is a back door that we can access.”

We will see this way of working very hard in 2021, says Maasland.


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