2020 Review: The pandemic’s role in cybersecurity

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Given the circumstances of the past year, 2020 will go down in infamy — many calling it the “worst year ever”. Whether or not you believe that’s the case, one thing is certain: in light of a global pandemic, we haven’t exactly had a “normal” business environment in quite a while. As such, many of our ordinary precautions have fallen by the wayside as we take time off, work from home, and become lax on our online security standards. Now, most people are just tired, complacent, and want a break.

And yet hackers haven’t taken a break at all.

In fact, this year more than ever before, we’ve seen an unprecedented amount of data theft, malware, and secure compromise. It’s become clear that the 2010’s were capped off with an overwhelming volume of cyber crime.

Below, we’ll review a few of the most significant data breaches, malware exposures, scams, and other threats for each month as well as draw some reasoning about why this could have happened.


  • Wawa – over 30 million records of customer details were put for sale online – one of the largest card breaches to date
  • Manor Independent School District – a phishing scam resulted in this Texas school district losing $2.3 million
  • Travelex – the New Year was opened with Travelex being struck by ransomware, losing over $2.3 million as well


  • General Electric – GE employees were the subject of a significant data breach, resulting in classified documents being released due to a security compromise in their provider’s network
  • Clearview AI – this facial recognition software company suffered a data breach, resulting in its entire client list being stolen


  • Marriott – disclosed a security breach impacting over 5.2 million customers’ email accounts


  • Nintendo – hackers gained the access to around 160,000 users’ account information
  • US SBA – experienced a a data breach in which 8,000 small business owners struggling from COVID-19 restrictions has important information disclosed


  • Data belonging to 44 million Pakistani mobile users was retrieved and leaked online
  • Mitsubishi – a data breach occurred, which could have resulted in confidential missile design data being stolen


  • University of California San Francisco – succumbed to ransomware in a $1.14 million payment in order to save COVID-19 research
  • NASA – the operators of the DopplePaymer ransomware announced they had infected the network of one of NASA’s IT contractors


  • CouchSurfing – this online lodging service experienced a security compromise in June, resulting in the sale of 17 million users’ data


  • University of Utah – paid a $457,000 ransom to stop cybercriminals from publishing student information
  • Intel – 20GB of sensitive corporate data was published online


  • Clark County, NV – Clark School District refused to pay a ransom, resulting in the publishing of student information online
  • US Satellites were allegedly compromised in September, resulting in a group of Iranian hackers being charged


  • Barnes & Noble – customer details, such as billing information, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers were leaked
  • Google – experienced a cyberattack that was mitigated, but clocked at 2.54 Tbps – the largest DDoS attack recorded to date


  • a Russian hacker was jailed for organizing a botnet, which was responsible for over $100 million being stolen from bank accounts
  • Manchester United – Man United disclosed a cyber-security compromise that “impacted its internal systems”


  • HMRC – this UK-based tax office experienced 11 cyber incidents over the 2019-20 financial year, which affected over 23,000 people
  • Leonardo SpA – one of the largest defense contractors worldwide, of which had a former employee arrested related tot he theft of disclosed corporate and military data

What does this mean?

With 2020 setting record highs for cyber breaches, it’s important to analyze why this level of cyber fraud can occur at a global level. With the wake of COVID-19 and remote working for many, it should come as no surprise that cyber security is at a greater risk than ever before.

1 in 3 U.S. employees (33%) reported that they use their own personal devices for remote work. Worse yet, only 17% use technology provided by their employer. This means that – more often than not – the same precious data that your organization keeps under lock and key is now circulating through home and public networks with relaxed security parameters.

It’s possible to work remotely and work safely. Yet without the proper software applications, security network, and inter-staff communications, it’s become all too easy for a business to be compromised while “on the go”.

Additionally, many businesses are using dated protocols that lack the security requirements that would be needed today. As hackers and other cyber criminals get increasingly adaptive, it’s important that your business’s network does, too.

Find out how susceptible your business is to outside threats, as well as the steps needed to better your organization’s data security. Contact Caspian today for your security consultation, and we’d be happy to advise you on your network integrity and ensure that your employees can continue to work safely.

Will 2021 have even more rampant cybercrime? As we go into the new year, resolve to future-proof your business by investing in its cybersecurity early-on.