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The greatest security threats of the 21st century

The Greatest Security Threats of the 21st Century (So Far)

3 minute read

The 21st Century will almost certainly be an era known for great technological advancements and unprecedented global connectivity.

But with the good comes the bad: in response to these advances, security teams have been forced to ramp up their defensive strategies to keep every new security threat at bay.

From cyber ne’er-do-wells to a lack of training, there are security-based challenges lurking around every corner. But which ones will stand out when the history books reflect on today? Here are just a couple of suggestions.


Outdated Hardware & Software

Outdated hardware and software pose a significant risk to both businesses and organisations, and the WannaCry ransomware attack of 2017 serves as a stark reminder of this. This malicious software exploited a security flaw in supported – but not patched – Windows 7 operating systems, spreading rapidly through the NHS via the internet.

You don’t need to wait for an apocalyptic ransomware to demonstrate the importance of keeping hardware and software up-to-date either; on a day-to-day basis, there’s a risk of data loss from older machines that can’t handle the strain of what its user needs it to do.

Furthermore, outdated hardware often falls out of the scope of device management solutions and generally lacks essential security patches and updates, leaving it susceptible to exploitation by cybercriminals.

It’s crucial for updates to be applied regularly – even if it means shelling out on more up-to-date machines and solutions. The cost of ignoring this security threat will be far higher, after all.

Phishing Attacks

With 91% of all cyber-attacks beginning with a phishing email, it’s sure to be a method we all associate with 21st Century technology.  Phishing attacks deceive recipients into divulging sensitive information, including login credentials, credit card details, or personal data – a ploy made all the easier by our always-on, digital world and the growing knowledge gap between contemporary technology and its users.

This deception often involves creating a sense of urgency, such as warning of account suspension or security breaches, in an attempt to gain a swift response. Phishing attacks can have severe consequences, leading to data breaches, financial losses, and even identity theft – and it all starts with an innocuous, often believable, message.

Our People

Arguably the biggest security threat of the 21st Century is people, with their unpredictable – and sometimes unreliable – nature.

The challenges people present can be far-ranging, and don’t always mean there’s foul play afoot. One of the most pressing issues, for example, involves the widespread neglect of crucial security practices – particularly the under-utilisation of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). With the persistence of weak or reused passwords and the need to adopt a zero-trust mindset, MFA has become a cornerstone of security. Without user adoption, however, it can never be as effective as it needs to be.

And then, of course, there are the ‘bad actors’. Bad actors have the skills and intent to exploit security weaknesses, often with the aim of financial gain, data theft, or disruption. In 2023, 29 million data leaks have been caused by bad actors, though they’re not always the moustache-twirling villains we suspect they are; sometimes (or, to be more accurate, 75% of the time) they’re disgruntled employees.

Whether intentional or accidental, people represent a huge security threat – one that grows the more our access and reliance to technology develops.

Let Surveil Help You

The Surveil platform provides its users with actionable insights into the Microsoft world, surfacing potential threats, low MFA adoption, security recommendations, and much more. With a Surveil security snapshot, you can remedy security issues before they become a real challenge.

To get started, speak to your Microsoft Partner about using Surveil – or get in touch with our team directly to find out more.

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