Why a Security-First Infrastructure Is Your Only Option in 2021


Ransomware, malware, and cloud data attacks had become more frequent and dangerous than ever in 2020. With remote work set to continue, 2021 will demand greater cybersecurity efforts from companies to protect themselves and their remote employees by securing vulnerable endpoints. Here, Jay Goodman, Product Marketing Manager at Automox, unpacks the complexity of IT infrastructure in an all-digital world and how adopting a security-first approach can help.

Cybersecurity has been riddled with hurdles from COVID-19 and the rapid adoption of remote work this year. As 2020 faces a record high number of cyberattacksOpens a new window , the current security infrastructure’s ability and effectiveness is being called into question and reevaluated. 

While there has been significant improvement in the security space within the past few years, the number of ransomware, malware, and cloud data attacks has increased year over year. Even the biggest companies and organizationsOpens a new window are vulnerable to these attacks if the cybercriminals have enough resources. Of course, these large scale efforts seldom target smaller businesses and companies, but the growing rate of cyberattacks has made security-first infrastructure a necessity going into 2021. 

Here is what IT leaders and employees need to know to build a security-first infrastructure and prevent the three main attacks that we will see next year:


There has been a massive increase in financially motivated cybercriminals over the past few years and ransomware is now more popular than ever. These attacks often begin when a hacker exploits a year-old vulnerability in a company’s VPN or gains initial access from previously compromised credentials being reused without multi-factor authentication enabled. As the attackers’ sole objective is to gain financial reward, these exploits don’t target the intellectual property itself but are aimed at companies who are most willing to provide a payout. Ransomware has shifted towards asynchronous adversarial behavior in favor of easily monetizable attacks targeting broad categories of victims with less sophisticated attacks. 

When it comes to protecting against ransomware specifically, making use of all cyber hygiene tools is incredibly important. A prevention-based approach is still one of the best defenses, and a strong focus on doing the basics correctly can go a long way in improving an organization’s security posture. It’s also important to keep critical systems patched and up to date to help seal any cracks in defenses. Ensuring systems are backed up on a regular basis can pay dividends if the need to wipe and restore a system affected by ransomware arises. Overall, layering cybersecurity tools and being vigilant with cyber hygiene to build a security-first infrastructure is vital to success.

Learn More: The Biggest Cloud Data Breaches of 2020 (and the Security Fails That Bind Them)


As remote employees rely on personal home networks, they are far less secure and can increase a company’s attack surface, giving hackers inroads into the network through laptops outside the scope and perimeter of corporate security. Given the rapid shift to remote work amid the pandemic, it’s understandable that 90% of employeesOpens a new window say they never received updated training or guidelines on the increased risks of using less secure devices to access critical data. Against an unprepared workforce, cybercriminals have prime opportunities to land and expand malware into a company’s infrastructure by targeting tools like the VPNs used on employees’ unsecured devices or through elaborate phishing scams. 

Now’s the time to make strides in improving security posture by giving employees the training and knowledge to recognize and avert common phishing attacks—starting by moving critical security tools from on-premises to the cloud. Using cloud-native tools to automate endpoint management tasks without VPN connections to ensure that remote devices are patched, up-to-date, and free from vulnerabilities is an effective method for a distributed workforce. Increasing employee awareness and hardening endpoints remotely can reduce the likelihood and severity of malware attacks. 

Cloud Data 

More and more technologies are moving to cloud-based models, increasing the amount of cloud data. However, with this migration comes a greater chance of leaks from cloud storage buckets where a company overlooks basic security configurations in the cloud, leaving information open to the internet for anyone to find and exploit. 

Ultimately, cloud vulnerabilities expand every organization’s attack surface considerably, but cloud threats exist beyond just misconfigurations. In fact, attacks on cloud-based services are carried out using the same weaknesses that are commonly exploited for on-premise networks, including stolen credentials and unpatched applications. Businesses must focus on protecting their cloud-based workloads, data, and applications with the same effort as securing on-prem assets. This can be done through an automated, cloud-native tool that secures cloud services from the cloud so that the applications that organizations use are properly updated and configured regardless of where they are hosted. This step will be crucial when it comes to creating a security-first infrastructure in your organization.

Learn More: Top 4 Biometric Authentication Predictions for 2021

Why Security Should Come First in 2021

2020 has been a moment of reckoning. Many organizations’ attack surface continues to grow, and IT teams must accept that we live in a distributed world that demands an integrated security strategy across multiple domains. This means that although 2021 will likely be a repeat of the tumultuous year we’ve experienced when it comes to cybersecurity, one thing we’ll have to our advantage is experience and the lessons learned from not prioritizing a security-first approach, such as how we can better prepare for malware, ransomware, and cloud-based attacks.

This year has shown that instilling a security-first infrastructure will be necessary for organizations who want to protect their valuable assets moving into 2021. The consequences of failing to guard these frontlines of the cybersecurity battleground are potentially ruinous.

When it comes to adopting a security-first approach, it takes a dedicated shift to prioritizing security over all other activities. It requires more security training for your teams and developing and enforcing stricter policies for accessing sensitive data. 

We need to see more growth in technologies that help organizations master the basics and give real visibility of the attack surface they present to malicious actors. There are no silver bullets in security, and as technology continues to evolve, so do your security operations. 

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