A Constant State of Flux: Trend Micro 2020 Annual Cybersecurity Report

March 17, 2021

The global pandemic led to a dramatic transformation in the workforce. Organizations were tasked with the challenge of sustaining a year-round remote work setup and handling the major security issues associated with it.

Trend Micro’s 2020 Security Roundup reviews the most important cybersecurity stories, issues and trends that occurred during this unprecedented year. This annual report aims to equip cybersecurity leaders with valuable insights and tools that can inform cybersecurity strategies focused on both protecting and enabling the organization. 

Ransomware attacks focus on prominent targets.

2020 saw ransomware operators focusing their efforts on high-value assets in industries hard hit by the pandemic, using sophisticated targeting methodologies in concert with proven attacks processes for maximum effect.

Enterprise supply chains continued to be the easiest avenue of compromise for ransomware, taking advantage of the fact that organizations often assume that the products and services offered by their partners are safe combined with an inability to check for threats within their extended supply chains.

Global pandemic cause major shifts in cybersecurity.

Cybercriminals took advantage of the global pandemic—launching Covid-19 based threats such as spam emails about symptoms or business email compromise (BEC) scams offering fake vaccines to extort personal and financial information from victims. Enterprises beware—the workforce positions most spoofed by BEC scammers were the CEO and managing director.

The sudden influx of remote workers presented cybersecurity challenges for businesses. Organizations grappled with securing virtual private networks (VPNs) that leverage usernames and plain-text passwords from being compromised with stolen credentials, as well as protecting communication tools like Zoom, Slack, and Discord from malware or being used as a launching point for installer or email spam campaign attacks.   

Organizations face threats in cloud, IoT, and mobile environments.

As the cloud became a more integral part of business operations, cloud misconfigurations remained a problem for many organizations. The internet of things (IoT) also played an important role in the shift to remote work and malicious actors took notice—inbound attack events tripled while outbound attack events nearly doubled from 2019. Enterprises were impacted not only by the new attack techniques, but the speed at which the vulnerabilities could spread and the shrinking time gap between the attack and theft of valuable information. 

Increased number of dangerous vulnerabilities threaten organizations.

Trend Micro™ Zero Day Initiative™ (ZDI) reported a 40% increase in discovered vulnerabilities, with critical- and high-severity vulnerabilities seeing significant increases. Old vulnerabilities, dating as far back as 2005, were also still being exploited. Since vulnerabilities require immediate patching to reduce danger, the spike in amount can potentially add to the workloads of IT teams without a viable strategy for shielding them from attack.

What can enterprises do?

Cybercriminals are using an arsenal of attacks to compromise systems and exploit sensitive data, creating major security risks for enterprises struggling with a new working environment due to the pandemic. How can cybersecurity leaders enable the organization while still keeping it secure?

  • Use multilayered security strategy that includes:
    • Comprehensive, connected protection across clouds, networks, devices, and endpoints
    • Centralized visibility, detection, and response solutions (XDR) that leverages advanced technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver prioritized alerts to overloaded teams
    • Timely and efficient patch management and/or vulnerability shielding to address critical-, high-severity and old vulnerabilities
    • Regular audits of your on-premises and cloud infrastructures, with a focus on automation for the cloud to address the speed at which the cloud is growing
  • Invest in training your workforce to identify the most prevalent threats, including leveraging tools that train users to identify a phishing attack, given that over 90% of attacks originate from email
  • Evaluate the security of suppliers and other partners. If possible, collaborate with them to strengthen the supply-chain against cybercriminals


Learn more about these cybersecurity challenges and mitigation strategies in Trend Micro’s full report on 2020.