Methods for Maintaining Cybersecurity During an Epidemic

Cybercriminals are continuously active, without any consideration for the prevailing weather conditions. The global Coronavirus Pandemic has meant that organisations of all types have been forced to adopt new ways of working, which may have left them ill-prepared to handle the challenges posed by cybersecurity threats. To ensure that they are protected, all businesses should review their cybersecurity strategies to ensure they are up to date with the present situation. This is essential, regardless of the size of the organisation or the sector in which it operates.

Is There Now More Risk to Your Company?

Security breaches in the digital realm are far from a novel phenomenon. Organisations around the world were already tackling them prior to the outbreak of the pandemic. So, what has changed? It is true that our current use of technology is notably different to how we were engaging with it only a few months ago, but it is also worth considering how certain sectors, such as the IT industry, have been able to carry on as normal due to the switch to telecommuting.

The sudden transition of many businesses to remote operations has caused significant disruption to their safety and information technology systems. It appears that even companies with some level of existing remote working capabilities have encountered difficulties, leading to a more equal playing field for cybercriminals to exploit. These malicious actors are actively seeking out these newly weakened security parameters, making it essential that organisations take all necessary precautions to protect their vital systems.

It is clear that this is not an isolated occurrence, and the consequences of cybercrime can affect anyone. In a bid to combat this issue, the World Health Organization (WHO) took the step of issuing a public alert in February 2017, warning individuals and businesses to be vigilant against cybercriminals who may be attempting to disguise themselves as WHO in order to steal money or confidential information. This warning is echoed by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), who have all issued similar alerts.

It can be confidently asserted that cyber attacks on businesses are increasingly common in the current climate. With the economic situation being uncertain and the general circumstances being complex, there are many opportunities for malicious actors to exploit and gain access to systems without being detected.

Is Working From Home the Issue?

The rapid increase in the number of people working remotely across the globe has brought about a considerable rise in the number of login devices being used for work. These range from everyday smartphones and home computers, which are not as secure as company-issued equipment, to more advanced devices. This has made it especially difficult for companies to manage these devices and plan accordingly due to the sheer scale of the task.

Since the turn of the decade, cybercrime has become increasingly widespread, with phishing being one of its most common forms. The rate of hackers attempting to gain unauthorised access to user accounts and commit fraudulent activities is particularly high in Italy, according to data from Cynet’s Global Threat Telemetry. February 2021 alone saw a three-fold increase in the average monthly volume of phishing attacks in comparison to that of the whole of 2023.

Many organisations have been taking a risk in allowing their employees to work remotely due to the current situation, and some may blame any vulnerabilities that arise from this on the remote working environment. However, the true difficulty lies in the attitude that many companies have towards remote labour. Whilst this may have been acceptable in the short-term, in order to deal with the urgency of the current situation, it is not a sustainable solution. Therefore, it is time for organisations to take action in order to ensure that their employees are adequately protected.

Here Are 5 Steps to Take Immediately

It has been several weeks since the outbreak of the epidemic began and it is now time to consider how to mitigate its effects. The potential consequences of a cyber-attack on an organisation should not be underestimated – investing in measures to protect and secure all confidential data is absolutely essential.

  • It is essential that any software used by your business and its employees is kept up to date with the latest version: As new vulnerabilities and security threats are discovered each day, one of the most effective ways to protect against potential attackers is to ensure that your software is running the most up-to-date version. Doing so will keep the gap between you and attackers as wide as possible.
  • Verify Login Permissions: It is essential to carefully evaluate which members of staff require access to all records within the organisation. Current data access regulations should be reviewed and revised if necessary. Doing so will significantly reduce the number of potential vulnerabilities and minimise the impact of any potential cyber-attacks.
  • Educate Everyone: It is a well-known adage that the security of your company is only as strong as its weakest link. This can be demonstrated by the fact that if just one employee is duped by a phishing scam, the entire organisation is put at risk. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that all personnel are aware of the necessity of protecting sensitive information, and that they are encouraged to report any suspicious activity to the IT department.
  • Tensions Rising? Boost Your Defenses: Despite popular misconceptions, cyberattacks are nothing like those depicted in Hollywood films. Subtle, yet highly effective, these malicious acts are often undetectable and leave no trace. To protect against them, the most effective strategy is to ensure that your systems are robust and that your IT personnel are constantly monitoring and updating your defences to ensure they remain at their highest level of performance.
  • Zero-Trust Approach: Zero Trust is the next evolution in security measures beyond passwords and multi-factor authentication, leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to monitor user behaviour for any irregularities. This approach involves monitoring a number of different metrics such as user interaction patterns, network connectivity, device authentication, and time of usage. Collectively, these factors provide a more comprehensive view of user activity, allowing for the early detection of potential security threats.

Path Forward

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented the global population with a unique challenge, but it has occurred at a time when unprecedented levels of advanced software are available. As such, businesses can now take advantage of this technology to respond to the crisis in a manner that was not possible even ten years ago. Whilst there are still numerous difficulties to overcome, we should be grateful for this innovative technology and use it to our advantage.

As the months pass, people are gradually recovering from the devastating effects of the pandemic, both emotionally and financially. It is therefore essential that individuals remain vigilant with regards to cyber security, as this will help to protect them from potential security threats. It is important to bear in mind that these measures are not only necessary in emergency situations, but also in order to protect the security of your company in the present moment.

Avoid harm!

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