The age of invisible enemies: How COVID-19 has impacted cybersecurity

By Jack Murray, 
Jul 21, 2020
5 min read
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We live our lives online, but this is not news. Escaping this reality has become virtually impossible, given the current state of our world. As social distancing and stay-at-home measures disrupt almost every industry on the planet, communication and business have gone digital. So, what does this mean for cybersecurity?

Shifting to remote work

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have forced a sudden shift to remote work on many businesses around the globe. With millions of employees working out of the office, companies now rely on digital technology to continue regular business operations. 

If adapting to new ways of work hasn’t been enough of a challenge, the surge in remote connectivity has also increased the risk of cybersecurity threats. Many remote employees lack secure equipment to ensure digital safety while working from home. As a result, most are accessing corporate networks from personal devices that are often rife with security vulnerabilities. 

To grapple with worldwide office shutdowns, businesses have also turned to virtual communication tools. The demand for Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other video conferencing platforms has skyrocketed as entire companies transitioned to fully remote teams. 

All of that has left companies more vulnerable to cyber attacks than ever before. Successful hacking attempts can devastate businesses financially. Fragile reputations can be shattered by security breaches. As new software for remote work is implemented daily en masse, the need for corporate caution and digital protection is more important than ever. 

Increase in cyberthreats

Cybercrime is rising by the day as more companies adopt remote work models and operate their businesses online. Phishing, pharming, malware, ransomware, XSS, and countless more dangers lurk on the web. And now that your employees are connecting to company systems through unprotected home Wi-Fi networks, gaining unauthorized access to sensitive information has never been easier.

The threat to business network security has been further amplified by vulnerabilities in popular apps like Zoom and Office 365. Online communication services have remained prime targets for hackers, leaving companies especially vulnerable to data breaches and credential theft. 

Add to that social engineering campaigns using reputable domains like the World Health Organization. Phishing attacks have increased by 600%, with hackers exploiting the fear and chaos of remote employees to probe deeper into corporate networks. As your threat surface expands, real-time data protection across networked devices is an absolute necessity.

Cybercriminals are using this pandemic as an opportunity, and staying protected is becoming more difficult by the day. Businesses need to educate employees on safe internet usage and remote access protocols. 

Developing a robust cybersecurity strategy

While the COVID-19 crisis will eventually pass, the threats that came with it will always remain. In today’s digital landscape, building a robust cybersecurity infrastructure is key to the long-term success of any business. As cybercriminal techniques become more advanced, companies need to find new ways to ensure their employees’ digital hygiene. 

Here are some steps for implementing an effective cybersecurity strategy:

  • Educate your team 

For your security efforts to be successful, a culture of shared responsibility has to be integrated across the whole company. Keep your teams up to date on the latest cybersecurity threats. Educate your employees about the risks of password recycling and encourage them to use two factor authentication as an additional layer of security. Train your staff how to recognize phishing emails and how to act when in doubt.

  • Choose trusted security solutions from reputable companies 

Do in-depth research before committing to any security system provider. Check whether your selected company has the required skill set to meet your business security needs. Threat monitoring and incident response capabilities are also important aspects to consider. You want to make sure that threats are detected as early as possible and that you remain informed about your compromised network at all times.

  • Click only what you trust 

Today’s most effective cyber attacks rely on human error. That’s why email phishing scams have been so successful during these uncertain times. In mid-April alone, Google counted more than 18 million daily phishing attacks launched at users around the globe. Don’t click any unfamiliar links, never download suspicious email attachments, and encourage your employees to do the same.

  • Use a business VPN and apps that offer end-to-end encryption 

A remote access VPN enables a secure connection to the internet and protects your privacy online. It also encrypts your data traffic, reducing the risk of breaches and leaks. In times when your business data is your most valuable asset, it must be secured.

  • Keep your software up to date

Install software updates as soon as they become available The longer you postpone an update, the more vulnerable your business network becomes. System and software updates include important security patches and bug fixes. These are critical to maintaining your digital safety and improving data protection. Make sure your company systems are up to date, and so are your employees’ devices.

We live our lives online, but that doesn’t mean we need to worry. Safety and security are achievable through education and vigilance. Stay safe, everyone.

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