Top 10 Cyber Defence Predictions for 2021

Dave McMahon · Clairvoyance Cyber Corp. · Posted: January 19, 2021

Close up of switched on laptop with glowing blue lightDramatic digital and social transformation will continue as governments oscillate between re-opening and lockdown owing to the pandemic. Adversaries will take advantage of this ambiguity and instability by propagating misinformation, mounting destabilization campaigns, interference in critical infrastructures with disruptive cyber attacks and conducting systematic espionage while institutions are in flux. 

Remote work solutions will be rolled out but which do not full satisfy the needs of employees and are vulnerable to exploitation.  The lack of routing integrity and infrastructure governance will become the primary attack vector. A shadow network of personal devices and apps will emerge as an alternative means to communication and collaboration. The line between professional and personal lives will blur.  

Secure cloud computing will rocket in importance and uptake by citizens, enterprises and governments. This will provide much improved capability, resiliency and security at the fraction of cost of traditional architectures, but will challenge conventional doctrine. 

5G will be completely deployed across Canada this year and will pave the way for the Internet-of-Things. The impact to individual behaviour, business and governments will be significant. The convergence of multiple industrial sectors and regulatory environments will accelerate. 

Industrial cyber power will continue to grow and will challenge traditional Westphalia models of governance and sovereignty, thus necessitating a new social contract and renegotiate equities for public private partnerships.  The private sector will conduct more active cyber defence and persistent engagement operations independently and in cooperation with the state, in order to defend the country. 

The war on information and truth systems, science and reason will emerge as one of the most significant challenges of our lifetime. The leadership vacuum in this space will become increasingly problematic in dealing with misinformation as a domestically and conducting information peace-keeping (IPK) operations abroad.  

Artificial Intelligence particularly as required to moderate Internet content, will drive social scientists, philosophers, civil society, privacy authorities and legislators to better define a set of universal values, ethics and norms so they engineers can code the machinery of cyberspace. Engineering necessity will thus drive social science. 

Attacks such as Solar Winds (and ASN.1 previously) will highlight supply chain in-security, the importance the critical information infrastructure interdependency and understanding complex systems. There will be increased pressure for industry verticals and government agencies to collaborate on sovereign solutions. 

The contest to control and influence the fabric of cyberspace will be as significant as the Manhattan project.  China will seize vital high ground in cyberspace globally; seek control of big data, core internet infrastructure, Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computing, and fifth generation mobile communications initiatives including launching low orbit 5G satellites over Canada. China's Road and Belt Initiative will shift the balance of economic technological and military global power. A China and Russian alliance in cyberspace will see Russian Gerasimov doctrine for hybrid warfare leverage China’s Three Warfares Strategy: Hundreds Talents Plan, United Front, and Road And Belt Initiatives. A digital iron curtain will balkanise cyberspace into East and West.  

China and Russia will leverage industry, government, military, intelligence services and organised crime to expand state power and influence cyberspace. The Kremlin’s reliance on proxies, weaponized disinformation, cyber disruption and deception measures will operate just below a level-of-armed-conflict. Meanwhile China will continue to conduct aggressive cyber espionage against Canadian businesses steal intellectual property as part of efforts to re-innovate critical technologies. 

Additionally, foresighting active cyber defence in 2021: 

  • The gap between offensive capabilities and a traditional cyber security response will continue to widen. 
  • Industry will be a proxy target of Hostile Intelligence Services and Militaries who will continue to exploit, interfere and influence Canadian interests.  
  • Organizations will require sophisticated hunt capabilities to interdict Advanced Persistent Threats that are undetectable by traditional cyber security.  
  • Disinformation campaigns in social media using semantic botnets will continue to rise in strategic utility of threat actors. 
  • The Internet will continue to enable the ability to malicious actors to influence populations at scale. 
  • Industry will be compelled to take a more foreword-leading stance in active cyber defence 


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Professional Development Institute of the University of Ottawa.

Dave McMahon has an honours degree in computer engineering from the Royal Military College of Canada and 35 years experience in defence, security and intelligence.  Dave was a CSO, COO to defence, telecommunications and intelligence organizations, co-chair or the Interdepartmental Committee on Information Warfare, expert witness to the Senate and special advisor to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and intelligence oversight and review. Dave is currently the Chair of the CADSI cyber council, and the CEO of Clairvoyance Cyber Corp. 

Security, Economics & Technology Blog

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