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More Remote Work, Focus on Data-Level Security and Greater Compliance

When 2020 started, no one could have predicted the extraordinary events that have unfolded over the past 12 months. From the massive, and nearly overnight, shift to remote work to the accelerated adoption of cloud services, it’s been a whirlwind of a year for enterprise IT teams. Now, at the beginning of 2021, many IT and security leaders are discussing how best to move the business forward, especially when it comes to data security.

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The year 2020 had some tough months when it came to massive data breaches that exposed vast and sometimes not yet known stores of personally identifiable information. But with just one extensive breach, December outran the other months of 2020. Here are some of the biggest hits of the month.

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While technology merger and acquisition (M&A) activity slowed significantly in 2020 due to the pandemic—market uncertainty resulted in deal values falling to decade-low quarterly performances of $35B USD, as compared to $127B and $165B in 2019 and 2018, respectively—things picked back up in Q3. Each month included at least ten billion-dollar deals as pent-up demand drove nearly record-breaking activity.

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Data breaches did not go easy on November in 2020. Of the most significant 103 breaches reported, there were at least 586 data records compromised, creating vulnerabilities for millions of individuals’ personal data. The breaches were fairly evenly spread between cyberattacks and ransomware, with internal errors causing the next most common breach type.

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The holiday shopping season is predicted to look much different this year. Many began shopping as early as the beginning of November. Less than half plan to spend the same amount as they did in 2019—with a third planning to spend less or nothing at all. But a definite trend this year is the overwhelming preference for online shopping, curbside pickup, and contactless payment. It is already a heavy lift for companies to prepare products and services to sell during the biggest revenue days and weeks—it’s equally vital to prepare each company’s processes and technologies to protect consumers’ personal data.

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The world at large is facing a privacy paradox. With personal data used more and more for everything from unlocking a phone to downloading an app, the public is increasingly aware of the risks of sharing data online. Unfortunately, individuals continue to share personal data. Largely because we have to: Individuals are required to give up certain personal data simply in order to interact in the modern world.

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As if ransomware attacks weren't already a big enough problem—infecting millions of computers and draining billions of dollars every year—a new development has made the threat an even greater concern.

Starting in late 2019, a hybrid variety of cyber attack has emerged, in which traditional ransomware tactics are combined with data exfiltration. Attackers notify their victims that if they fail to pay the ransom demand, not only will data on the infected systems remain encrypted, but the attackers will expose highly sensitive data to the public as well.

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It’s happened to everyone: you type the first few letters of your recipient’s name in Outlook and hit Tab—and you don’t realize that your customer credit card lists just went to Melvin, the annoying vendor who keeps spamming you, instead of Melissa in accounting.

Human error may not get as much attention as ransomware, spearphishing, and other cyber threats, but the reality is that careless insiders, not malicious outsiders, pose the biggest risk to data security.

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