Watch out for these financial cybercrime threats in 2021

Extortion practices will become even more widespread. (iStock)

  • Financial cyberthreats directly impact the financial wellbeing of victims.
  • Kaspersky researchers forecast the important developments in the financial threat landscape of 2021.
  • This can help organisations prepare for these new threats better.

In 2021, many financial cybercriminals are likely to target Bitcoin more often, while other cybercriminals will switch to transit cryptocurrencies when demanding payment from victims for enhanced privacy. 

On top of that, extortion practices will become even more widespread. These are the key predictions from global cyber security company Kaspersky regarding anticipated changes in the financial sector’s threat landscape. 

Financial cyberthreats directly impact the financial wellbeing of victims – be it individuals or organisations. According to Kaspersky, drastic changes in 2020 affected the way financial attackers operate, with techniques and procedures influenced by the change of how people live and work in the coronavirus world.

“This year was substantially different from any other year we experienced, and yet, many trends that we anticipated to come to life last year came true regardless of this transformation of how we live. These include new strategies in financial cybercrime – from reselling bank access to targeting investment applications — and the further development of already existing trends, for instance, even greater expansion of card skimming and ransomware being used to target banks,” says Dmitry Bestuzhev, a security researcher at Kaspersky.

Based on a review of what has happened over 2020, Kaspersky researchers forecast the important developments in the financial threat landscape of 2021 in order to help organisations prepare for these new threats better. 

Key predictions:


Also called JS-skimming. This is the method of stealing payment card data from e-commerce platforms. Attacks are expected to now move to the server side rather than relying on client side attacks.

Transition currencies

At the same time, special technical capabilities for monitoring, deanonymizing and seizing Bitcoin accounts will prompt a shift in the methods used by many cybercriminals to demand payment. 

Other privacy enhanced currencies such as Monero are likely to be used as a first transition currency, with the funds being later converted to other cryptocurrency, including Bitcoin, to cover criminals’ tracks.

Extortion on the rise

Due to their successful operations and extensive media coverage this year, the threat actors behind targeted ransomware systematically increased the amounts victims were expected to pay in exchange for not publishing stolen information. Kaspersky researchers anticipate an even higher growth in extortion attempts as a means to obtain money. 

0-day exploits used by ransomware gangs

Ransomware groups who managed to accumulate funds as a result of a number of successful attacks in 2020 will start using 0-day exploits – vulnerabilities that have not yet been found by developers  – to scale and increase the effectiveness of their attacks. 


With economies crashing down and local currencies dropping, more people may become involved in cybercrime, leading to more cases. As Kaspersky researchers anticipate, due to the weakness of local currencies, more people may focus on fraud that demands Bitcoin, as well as Bitcoin theft, since it is the most widespread cryptocurrency.


The 2020 KnowBe4 African Report collated insights from 881 respondents across South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritius and Botswana to discover how the continent views cybersecurity and its risks in a world shaped by a global pandemic. 

The report found that attitudes and behaviours had shifted as a result of the pandemic, but problem pockets of risk remain that need to be addressed in order to ensure both business and individual security.

Nearly 50% of the respondents will continue to work from home; 24% indicated that they were affected by cybercrime while working from home, and only 30% believed that their governments prioritised cybersecurity in their policies. Around 63.98% would give away their personal information if they believed that there was a need for it, or if they understood what it was being used for, which is a measured response in light of government and organisation requests for data to verify identity, while 7% would give away personal information if they got something back in return, like a discount, and the 6% do it all the time.

Nearly 20% have forwarded a spam or hoax email, 30% have clicked on a phishing email, 33.41% have fallen for a con artist or a scam, and 52.7% have had a virus on their PC.