The Industries Most Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks in 2021 – CDNetworks

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A single data breach cost businesses an average of around $3.7 million. And, the total cost of cybercrime is expected to reach $6 trillion in 2021. The fastest-growing method of cyber attack is via ransomware, a type of malware that is expected to continue escalating in coming years. 

Even those with little to no programming skills can carry out these cybersecurity attacks, due in part to the easily acquired ransomware attack kits available on the dark web.

5 Industries Most at Risk from Cyber Threats

In this guide, we’re going to assess the industries deemed most at risk from cyber-attacks and what can be done to halt cyber attackers in their tracks.

With more sensitive and personal data kept in the cloud than ever before cloud security is an area that should be prioritized by any modern company. 

The industries most vulnerable to cyber attacks:

  • Small businesses
  • Healthcare institutions
  • Government agencies
  • Energy companies
  • Higher education facilities

Small and Medium-Sized Businesses

Although media reports focus primarily on larger cyber-attacks such as the breaches at Target, Netflix, and financial institutions including JP Morgan, the most frequent threats have been to small and medium-sized businesses. 

Industry experts say that 60 percent of SMBs will fail within 6 months as a result of a cyber-attack which can include anything from phishing scams and malware attacks. Furthermore, there are industries that appear to be cybercriminals’ favorites. 

According to the 2017 X-Force Threat Intelligence Index, financial services were the prime targets, primarily through insider attacks from within the financial sector. These are expected to increase for smaller franchised retailers this year, along with those businesses with distributed infrastructure.


Ransomware is the top threat to healthcare organizations. It is believed the industry suffered at least one breach every day, affecting more than 27 million patient records to be sold on the darknet. 

The problem is, most healthcare facilities and organizations are vulnerable to these attacks because they aren’t equipped to ward them off. 

Many of these institutions have unpatched vulnerabilities in their operating systems or are utilizing legacy hardware and software. Pacific Alliance Medical Center, based in Los Angeles, was hit by a ransomware attack in June 2017 that breached more than 266,000 patient records, exposing large amounts of sensitive information only available to organizations within the healthcare industry. Studies show that four of five U.S. physicians have experienced a cyberattack.

Government Agencies

Government agencies hold a treasure trove of confidential information, including fingerprints, Social Security numbers, and more. 

Government servers and databases, unfortunately, have known vulnerabilities, resulting in larger amounts and volumes of attacks in recent years.

In 2016, a hacking group called the Shadow Brokers breached the NSA, highlighting the common and problematic practice of gathering intelligence and sensitive data through bugs in commercial products instead of notifying the software companies who make the software. 

That ill-advised practice can potentially endanger billions of software users and in this industry, act as a cyberthreat to national security.

Energy Industry

Energy networks are especially vulnerable to cyber-attacks, say security tech experts. Hackers can cause widespread power outages, undermining critical security and defense infrastructure, and endangering millions of citizens. 

Because hackers can gain control from close range or from long distances, they have the ability to access nuclear facilities, power grids, and power generation facilities around the world. 

Natural gas pipelines in both the U.S. and Canada are regularly targeted, and researchers in Oklahoma discovered that their wind-turbine facility could be hacked in less than one minute through a single lock on the door to gain access to their servers.

Higher Education

Over the last decade, universities experienced the highest number of cyber-attacks, with 539 breaches affecting around 13 million records. 

With all the information stored and added to a university’s registration office, it’s not surprising that hackers enjoy targeting their data-rich vaults. 

Two years ago, cyber-attacks in higher education institutions exposed 1.35 million identities. In 2015, both Harvard and Penn State experienced breaches, and several colleges and offices across their systems were affected. 

The year before, hackers stole identities from students at North Dakota University, University of Maryland, and University of Indiana. As years go on, the attacks are widespread and undiscerning, targeting student records from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Companies Affected by Cyber Attacks

In this guide we’ve touched upon some of the high profile companies that have been affected by cyber attacks in recent years, unfortunately, that list continues to grow. Some of the biggest organizations to have experienced a data breach include Adobe, Yahoo, eBay, and Verizon. 

With such large and established companies being targeted by hackers, it is crucial that organizations of all sizes take the threat of cyber attacks seriously. Any company that stores intellectual property or sensitive data of any kind has a duty to its customers to store their data as securely as possible.

Addressing the Issue of Cybercrime

Attackers will continue to implement new techniques to exploit vulnerabilities resulting from failures to update software or implement two-party authentication, along with rudimentary components. 

For industries most vulnerable to cyber attacks, security protocols must be in place in the event a data breach occurs and employee training is another key element in controlling breaches.

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