The rise of home working: why cyber security is vital during the COVID-19 crisis

The rise of home working: why cyber security is vital during the COVID-19 crisis

Cyber Security-COVID 19-Coronavirus

Our escalating fears about the Covid-19 pandemic have become a business opportunity for cybercriminals, who are cashing in on new opportunities presented to them during these uncertain times.

The rapid spread of the virus around the world has created a perfect storm for these unscrupulous members of society: fear, uncertainty, vulnerability, large-scale remote working and increased online activity. Cybercriminals are exploiting these conditions by infecting our devices and compromising our businesses. This has precipitated an increase in the likelihood and impact of cyber-attacks on businesses, as we react rapidly to the operational and financial challenges presented by the pandemic.

For example, as coronavirus lockdowns move internal and external business interactions online, the use of video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom – which experienced a 535% rise in daily traffic in March alone – has grown rapidly. However, as its use escalates, so have concerns about its security vulnerabilities, such as the discovery of a bug that enables hackers to take over a Zoom user’s device – including tapping into the webcam and hacking the microphone.

So, what steps should businesses take to mitigate these risks?

Working from home

Our response to the Covid-19 outbreak has changed the way we work, with businesses forced to shift rapidly to remote working at scale, following the introduction of emergency lockdown measures across the world. This has opened multiple new points of entry for cybercriminals, who have identified vulnerabilities in IT systems due to the widening attack surface – the various points an unauthorised user can attempt to access systems or extract data from your business.

For example, security controls may not be applied to new remote working systems; good practices may be overlooked in the rush, and; employees will be required to work with technologies they are unfamiliar with, potentially introducing new risks.

Six points for managing cyber security while your employees are working from home:

  • Maintain regular contact with all employees using secure methods and encourage them to identify any potential cyber security issues by delivering relevant online training.

  • Encourage employees that are working from home to develop a regular cyber security routine to protect their personal PCs by providing a checklist of key consideration, such as patching systems, running anti-virus scans, connecting via a Virtual Private Network (VPN) using multi-factor authentication and covering webcams.

  • Ensure all employee devices used for remote working are managed by your IT support team, who should monitor patching and anti-virus software when accessing business systems.

  • Ensure all personal devices on the home network – PCs, laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi/ firewall routers, Alexa, Google Home, mobile devices and even Nest devices – have the required security updates.

  • Regularly review all procedural and technical decisions linked to remote working, to identify and address any vulnerabilities that could be exploited by cybercriminals.

  • Remote monitoring and management tools such as Kaseya VSA can be used by IT support to manage and protect device security and proactively resolve issues without disrupting the user while working remotely.

Targeted threats

Reinforcing security for home working is just the first step in the fight against cybercrime. To keep the door completely shut to cybercriminals, businesses must also remain alert to opportunistic threats. The fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic has made employees more susceptible to social engineering attacks as cybercriminals exploit increased workloads, unfamiliar ways of working and heightened stress levels.

Phishing attacks crafted to target people that are unfamiliar with working from home have already been detected. For example, the bogus Coronavirus or Covid-19 tax refund email directs you to a fake government website, where you’re prompted to enter your payment information to receive your refund. Having compromised your data, the cybercriminals use it to access to your personal finances.

How to prevent targeted threats during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Reach out to IT support for specific guidance on how to spot suspicious online activity.

  • Ensure you receive adequate training to help you identify malicious targeted emails.

  • Highlight any suspicious emails or activities that you think might be a malicious attempt to exploit different or new ways of working, by reporting them to your IT support team.

  • To mitigate the increased risk of insider threats, ensure your IT department monitors suspicious behaviour from remote devices.

  • Use multi-factor authentication to access your company’s VPN. Encrypting your data over the internet will prevent cybercriminals from stealing it.

  • To help heighten your awareness of malicious phishing emails and to assess your ability to detect them, get your IT support team to send simulation emails impersonating real attackers.

The dynamic nature of cybercrime means it’s a constantly evolving threat that requires an equally dynamic response. To keep pace with the technique’s cybercriminals are using to exploit the Covid-19 crisis, organisations must address the security implications of remote working and provide employees with the knowledge required to combat targeted cyber threats.