AMU Cyber & AI Cybercrime Defense Editor's Pick Original

The Coronavirus Pandemic and Cybersecurity’s Outlook in 2021

By Dr. William Oliver Hedgepeth
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics Management

Cybersecurity was once a simple word, much like night watchman, security check-in at the airport or security passwords used to log into company databases and email systems. Today, in 2021, hackers are a world-shattering threat to businesses, families and careers.

2020 Led to an Increase in Cybersecurity Needs and Greater Knowledge of Cybersecurity-Related Terms

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting physical and economic impacts, there was a rush to have employees work from home. As a result, maintaining cybersecurity became a higher priority for companies and for people using their laptops for work, school, shopping, entertainment, and keeping in touch with friends.

During 2020, we also grew our familiarity with cybersecurity terms, such as telemedicine, telehealth, loss of data, data encryption, network intrusion, scams, cookies, digital piracy and biometrics. We also became more familiar with the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), chatbot, and even the older term “automation.”

The Top 3 Cybersecurity Trends for 2021

For 2021, there are emerging and expanding cybersecurity issues for individuals and companies to be concerned about. The impact of a cybersecurity threat is just as toxic to a person’s economic health as this pandemic to physical health. In addition, the cybersecurity trends most prevalent for 2021 are cloud migration threats, database breaches and cybersecurity training.

All these potential cyberthreats are tied to the remote work trend of 2020 and into 2021. Workers leaving an office environment with secure computers and data systems seem to be a significant part of cybersecurity breaches because their home networks are not as secure as office systems.

More Training Will Help Users to Better Avoid Cybersecurity Attacks

Improving cybersecurity for 2021 and beyond has one possible solution — training more people to develop their expertise in cybersecurity. Many schools and universities now offer courses in topics that give hands-on updates for how to spot and fight cybersecurity attacks. These classes cover a range of topics such as the tools that hackers use, digital forensics, intrusion detection, cryptography, the legal and ethical issues of data and information security, and similar topics.  

The loss of data has always been a problem ever since computer technology was first used to capture, process and summarize data. Data breaches and the loss of valid data are an increasing problem, according to news organizations reporting 2020 international breaches of databases once thought to be secure.

Computer systems controlling personal, financial, business, medical and government data are at constant risk of attack. These attacks can impact revenue for a company, person, or government and adversely affect the reputation of a company. Intellectual property theft can also affect governments, educational institutions or individuals.

“Many organizations spend large amounts of resources creating a secure infrastructure that protects their digital assets,” according to Dr. Kevin Harris of American Military University. From our iPhones to televisions to internet usage, the defenses against unwanted intrusions seem to be improving.

The Platform for Change: AI Technology

Artificial intelligence (AI) is also poised to defeat cybersecurity criminals. AI in 2021 is being used to provide ever-changing data models that are used to describe the health and risk factors emanating from COVID-19 problems and identify possible solutions.

AI is able to sift through millions of different data inputs and behavioral reports from hundreds of medical reports to identify trends that might otherwise take doctors months or years to uncover. This type of technology could be harnessed to help data breaches to be identified more quickly so that computers and humans could take more rapid action against intruders and provide more peace of mind for computer users.

Cybersecurity for any organization to be effective will involve all branches or assets within an organization in identifying threats and effective solutions. Such actions should include “the asset name, a description, its primary business functionality, the IT unit responsible for overseeing it, potential attackers, mitigation strategies, date of last assessment, level of value, and level of risk,” according to Dr. Harris.

Cybersecurity has been part of large organizations for decades, but especially since the advent of mass communications by computers and mobile phones used by individuals and for business mission needs. But the term used back in the 1960s was hacking. That term is still a key aspect of today’s cybersecurity defense.

According to Security Pursuit, “The first reference to the term hacking is in a 1960s MIT student newspaper article about malevolent telephone users who abused the phone system, tying up the lines between MIT and Harvard and racking up huge long distance phone bills that were charged to a local radar installation.” 

This old concept from the 1960s is what is still here in 2021. In essence, a cybersecurity attack is a brute force and illegal entry into private personal data, corporate and defense databases.

Oliver Hedgepeth

Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth is a full-time professor in the Dr. Wallace E. Boston School of Business. He was program director of three academic programs: Reverse Logistics Management, Transportation and Logistics Management, and Government Contracting. Dr. Hedgepeth was also Chair of the Logistics Department at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and the founding Director of the Army’s Artificial Intelligence Center for Logistics from 1985 to 1990, Fort Lee, Virginia.

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