The outbreak of COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus, has officially been categorized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a pandemic, meaning the infection is accelerating in multiple countries concurrently. Because of the rapid spread of the virus, the U.S. has declared travel bans on several European countries, has closed schools and universities, has prohibited social gatherings of 25 or more people (that cannot ensure a minimum of six feet of distance between persons), and has been issuing guidance for how to go about daily life since the so-called “social distancing” protocols have been put into place.
In order to stop the spread of COVID-19, many companies are making, or have made, the transition to teleworking in order to allow their employees to remain in social isolation while still having the opportunity to work. Unfortunately, with these social distancing measures in place, new threats are arising in the form of enhanced risks for cyber-attacks and complex security challenges. As organizations begin to shift their businesses online, cybercriminals are gearing up to take advantage of organizations that may have inadequate or naive security postures.
Researchers say that many of the cyber-attack attempts aimed at remote students and workers are likely to play on their fears and concerns about what sent them home to begin with – the Coronavirus itself. Already, attackers have been leveraging Coronavirus-themed cyberattacks as panic around the global pandemic continues. If an individual is concerned about the virus, they are less likely to remember their security training and will be more likely to click a link in a phishing email or give their credentials to a malicious web site.
Another challenge that organizations may face during this period of remote work is the lack of IT resources. When workers and students are sent outside their normal working environments, managing devices and securing endpoints becomes a much a bigger challenge. Adding yet another challenge into the mix is that many organizations work in industries that require advanced security measures in order to meet regulations set forth for them by the government.
Despite facing multiple roadblocks, there are ways that organizations can make the transition to remote work safely and get back to business, despite being quarantined.
Organizations need to make sure that all employees are up-to-date on all cyber awareness training, and that they are following these guidelines while working remote:
- Ensure that you are only using approved VPN connections to access company networks.
- Ensure that your IT infrastructure is used only to the extent required to perform necessary job functions. Overuse may result in server failures or other availability issues.
- Ensure your Wi-Fi connection is secure. While some newer Wi-Fi connections are secure, some older installations might not be, which means people in the near vicinity can spy on your traffic.
- Ensure anti-virus is in place and fully updated.
- Verify that all security software is up to date: Privacy tools, add-ons for browsers, and other patches need to be checked regularly.
- Have a back-up strategy: All important files should be backed up regularly. In a worst-case scenario, if an attack occurs, all information could be lost without a backup.
- Lock your screen if you work in a shared space: During this time, it is highly recommended that remote workers avoid co-working or sharing spaces due to the need for social distancing in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, if working in a shared space is your only viable option, then ensure that you’re working off of a secured connection and that you never leave your device unattended.
- Make sure to verify all correspondence: Check email addresses to make sure that the emails you’re receiving are coming from people you know and trust within the organization.
Actions that employers should take include:
- Define clear procedures to follow in case of a security incident. This should include phone numbers and contact information for everyone who needs to be notified in the event of an incident.
- Consider restricting access to sensitive systems where it makes sense and is applicable.
- Ensure all devices that support it use full disk encryption. If a machine is lost, the data on the device should not be accessible to thieves.
- Implement robust password management for laptop access. All accounts on the device should require unique login credentials, and where practical user accounts should be restricted to non-admin privileges.
- Implement a multifactor authentication mechanism for logging in to the company network. Short-time code generators like Google and Microsoft Authenticator should be in use wherever possible to minimize the risk of compromise through credential theft or phishing.
- Remind staff that if a laptop is company property, it should only be used by authorized personnel for company business. Any non-work related activity should be conducted on the employee’s own devices.
- Make use of teleconferencing technology (Skype, Zoom, etc.) to ensure that all financial transactions are actually coming from a legitimate, senior member of staff.
- Train staff to inspect links before clicking by hovering over them with the pointer to see the actual URL destination.
- Leverage advanced firewall, web filtering, and anti-phishing software – similar to Mission Multiplier’s SATURN-i product, or a product with comparable capabilities.
- Ensure that you have deployed automated vulnerability scanning and continuous monitoring solutions such as the Mars Suite™ product, or an equivalent product with similar proficiencies.
During this time of adjustment, practicing basic cyber hygiene to protect your organization is as important as practicing good physical hygiene to protect yourself from COVID-19. It’s important to make sure that you and your employees understand, and are prepared for, the additional security challenges of remote work. By implementing these guidelines and evaluating your organization’s risks, you can begin to safeguard your company against cyber-attacks and ensure that your business is still going strong.
If you or your company would like to learn more about how to effectively implement these cybersecurity measures and more, please do not hesitate to reach out to Mission Multiplier. While the market is down, the last thing you need is a cyber breach that will put you out of business; so please make sure that you are practicing safe and effective cybersecurity practices while also adhering to all protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)