The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how we humans are vulnerable in a lot of ways. For one, it has demonstrated how susceptible we are to a new disease. The deadly virus has burdened our health care system, with millions of lives lost and many more still battling the virus. The pandemic also disrupted supply chains and crippled numerous industries for a time. Continuous lockdowns have affected the way we work and study as well. Now, the way we do things is remarkably different, with an almost overnight transition from in-person to remote setups.
The pandemic has made us vulnerable to another unseen yet equally dangerous enemy. Cybersecurity attacks—from phishing emails, malware, ransomware to identity theft—have become rampant these days. Two-thirds of companies worldwide report an increase in cybersecurity attacks in 2020. While workers and companies transitioned to remote work, hackers worked double-time to compromise networks and execute data breaches. As we continue to grapple with the uncertainty of an open-ended pandemic, these threats continue to challenge businesses and industries worldwide.
The Effects Of The Pandemic On Cyber Security
The pandemic offers a lucrative environment for malicious actors as more and more people go online for personal transactions and business communications. Some of the significant impacts of the pandemic on cybersecurity are the following:
Increased Risk For Individuals
- The rapid spread of the coronavirus has everyone on standby for the latest news and developments. People turn to the internet to get updates on the newest infection statistics. They even search online for possible remedies and potential cures.
- This thirst for information becomes a wellspring of opportunities for hackers. They use COVID-19 as bait to get people to open phishing emails, answer calls, and reply to text messages. The most recent modus is to show legitimate-looking web forms that promise immediate access to vaccines. Such tactics are meant to steal health and credit card information, especially from those vulnerable to the disease.
- Some may even become victims of identity theft. Online bad actors take advantage of people’s vulnerabilities to obtain personal data and claim stimulus packages meant for those who’ve lost their jobs or whose businesses have closed due to lockdowns.
- More Challenging Remote Work Setup
- Employees worldwide spend their time on the computer or use their mobile devices to access work programs and files and communicate with their colleagues and bosses. This new work culture during pandemic is advantageous for most since it does away with the time-consuming commute. But this convenience comes with significant risks.
- Workers who use their own equipment, home internet connection, or public Wi-Fi may not have enough protection from viruses and malware. Others may share sensitive information unknowingly when they use third-party software.
- Remote work becomes more challenging for companies as they need to secure their data and manage connections across multiple locations. Employees can receive emails masquerading as legitimate office communications, and when they click on the link, they end up installing keylogging software onto their computer. Malware could download extensive data and continue conducting suspicious activities even when employees are no longer online.
Industries Under Cyber Security Threats
- Industries such as health care and finance are also susceptible to cyberattacks. Already burdened with caring for countless COVID-19 patients, the health care sector has become a prime target because of valuable patient information. Large volumes of medical data leaked or stolen can compromise health care service delivery and threaten people’s lives. As for the finance sector, credit card fraud remains widespread as people turn to online shopping for anything and everything. Ransomware can also infect businesses. Malicious actors can hold hostage consumer data that will translate to huge financial losses.These cybersecurity threats have escalated due to the pandemic and may well continue as people continue to work, study, and do business online. Such cybersecurity issues compel individuals, companies, and entire industries to take action and defend themselves from the dangers of an onslaught of Covid-related cybercrime.
- Response To Cyber Security Threats
- Cybersecurity is now everyone’s concern. Anyone can experience attacks due to an innocent-looking email or a seemingly harmless ad for COVID-19 updates. Individuals, businesses, and all sectors need to secure their devices from data theft and block suspicious activity in their networks.
- Personal Defense
- Individuals should make it a point to keep their computers and mobile devices safe. They have to learn to avoid opening links and attachments no matter how enticing they may seem. While email filters can help purge such elements from one’s inbox, people should understand that they must only obtain information from legitimate sources.
- It’s advisable to install adequate protection to secure your online transactions. Virtual private networks (VPNs) can increase online security as they use encryption to protect home networks and ensure the safe use of public Wi-Fi connections. You should keep health and financial information secure and only transact with trusted professionals on legitimate platforms.
- Establish Effective Security Culture At Work
- Companies with remote work setups can bolster their security culture by providing regular cyber awareness training to their employees. Managers and supervisors should be at the helm of this initiative by including reminders for online safety during weekly meetings.
- Providing in-context training also helps employees recognize real-world threats and how risky behaviors such as opening suspicious links or attachments can compromise the entire organization. Managers can correct these behaviors and encourage a proactive attitude toward cybersecurity.
- Making staff members a big part of security culture in the workplace helps them take responsible actions for the sake of online safety. Once users have adequate knowledge, they’ll be able to detect and counter cyberattacks. Thus, organizations must provide periodic updates to ensure that their staff and equipment are protected.
- Consolidated Security Solutions
- Providing employees with knowledge is only half of the security culture equation. Companies also need to ensure they have adequate systems to protect data and devices. Ideally, they should provide equipment for their employees and discourage the use of personal equipment for work purposes. Using company-issued devices allows for easy monitoring and management of risks before they become complicated. Using VPNs and other additional security solutions can bolster business capabilities against cyberattacks.
- The ongoing health pandemic has exposed cybersecurity concerns on personal, business, and industrial levels and the need to bolster security measures to protect data and devices. Individuals can defend themselves from malicious attacks by learning how to recognize suspicious communication. Remote workers should adhere to their security work culture and be cautious of their transactions over public networks. In a broader context, organizations and industries can overcome cybersecurity challenges brought about by this pandemic when they have adequate control over their personnel, equipment, and networks.