As the news changes on an almost daily basis, it’s difficult to know what to expect after the pandemic. Here is a review of the existing threats and how your company can prepare for the world during and after the pandemic. 

It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented health and economic crisis, affecting the wellbeing of employees. This pandemic has affected many businesses, as well as operations of businesses globally-but one that may have been overlooked by many is cybersecurity.

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, cybercrimes have skyrocketed. Scammers are now launching fraudulent campaigns that cash in and feed off the cybersecurity gaps occasioned by emergencies and the necessity to adopt new working models.

In this post, we take a peek at the existing cyber threats, what to expect post the pandemic, and how your company can prepare for the inevitable. Let’s dig in:

Cybersecurity Risks in the COVID 19 Context

Some of the leading cyber crimes emanating from the COVID-19 crisis include:

Phishing attacks using the COVID-19 disease as bait

Fraudsters have been sending malicious emails impersonating government agencies and departments in charge of dispensing government-funded COVID-19 support initiatives. Such emails are usually designed to direct the recipient to a fake website where they are deceived to enter their personal and financial information.

Malware distribution using the pandemic as bait

Hackers have been leveraging human traits such as curiosity and concern around the coronavirus outbreak to deploy malware. In most cases, they send emails (with subject lines containing COVID-19-related phrases such as “Coronavirus Update”) that persuade the victim to download a malicious file from a website.

To create an impression of authenticity, the fraudsters spoof sender information in an email to make it look like it came from a trustworthy source, such as the World Health Organization (WHO).

Supply chain and remote working threats

As the pandemic ravages, governments have invoked several containment measures, such as social distancing and self/government-imposed quarantines, forcing companies to shift to remote working.

Fraudsters have taken advantage of this massive move to launch more attacks by exploiting various vulnerabilities in remote working tools. Since the recently deployed remote workers have had less training regarding the required security protections due to the current implementation rush, they are more prone to attacks.

Cybersecurity Risk Post-COVID 19

The COVID-19 outbreak is accelerating the trend towards telework, and we may see a more permanent shift towards telecommuting. As such, enterprises will continue facing the following challenges:

  • Telework will open multiple vectors for cyberattacks on employees due to increased use of personal devices and dependency on home and public networks.
  • Critical business assets will be at risk of being exposed to targeted and opportunistic cyberattacks by fraudsters and other malicious organizations seeking to exploit vulnerabilities and plant seed for possible future attacks.
  • Critical public sector services such as healthcare will continue to be under pressure and being hit hard with new types of ransomware, often aimed at disrupting connectivity and denial-of-service attacks.
  • Ransomware targeting supply-chains and online services will also be on the rise. Weakened organizations will be more vulnerable.

This begs the question: how will companies prepare for the inevitable?

A Robust Cybersecurity Response after COVID 19

Organizations will need to execute robust cybersecurity measures to prevent further crises. Beyond COVID-19, these seven areas will require attention.

#1. Teleworking solutions

Since we anticipate a permanent increase in telework, organizations should consider:

  • Procuring sufficient on-demand brandwidth to facilitate communication and content sharing, especially video conferencing across geographically dispersed sites.
  • Managing identity and access for remote staff to meet corporate security requirements as well as employees’ ease-of-use needs.
  • Deploying secure connectivity solutions to staff workstations such as internet protocol security (IPsec) – based VPN clients.

#2. External perimeter protection

Remote connections will undoubtedly increase an enterprise’s cyber-attack surface. Businesses may protect their external perimeters by:

  • Locking down staff workstations as well as company-based laptops with advanced security settings. This includes managing configurations centrally, and not giving administrative privileges to end-users.
  • Deploying network access control (NAC) as a solution that will help authenticate and validate devices, as well as enforce security policies before allowing them to connect to company networks.
  • Deploying solutions that enable remote endpoint data collection and analysis to help identify unauthorized activity.

#3. Cloud services

Cloud services offer many benefits over data storage and application hosting alternatives. Besides monitoring cloud usage within the enterprise, they enforce related cybersecurity policies and guard against malware. To enjoy these benefits cloud services need to be strategically adopted and managed. Companies should consider:

  • Adopting formal strategies for the use of cloud services.
  • Defining data storage regulations outlining the requisites for the use of cloud services, data center storage, and local storage, especially for crucial information.

#4. Secure collaboration tools

Video conferencing, email and office productivity tools have been very useful during the pandemic. Companies may choose to:

  • Adopt and use additional secure collaboration tools
  • Explore emerging technologies like virtual reality and chatbots for content delivery

#5. Cybersecurity policy

Organizations should consider conducting a risk assessment and establish enforcement mechanism such as:

  • Single sign-on
  • Automatic logout from unattended devices
  • Multi-factor authentication

# 6. Supply chain and third-party management

The pandemic may make it necessary for your supply chain associates to change their business model. Organizations should consider:

  • Reviewing third-party agreements -for instance, IT providers – to ascertain that they meet the latest requirements and have acceptable liability provisions.
  • Conducting regular cybersecurity audits for all third parties with authorized access to the company network, data, or systems.

#7. Cyber-attack financial protection and recovery

Companies should consider cyber insurance, which can come in handy as a cost-effective financial backstop should they experience a cyber-attack. Enterprises need to:

  • Review their current insurance coverage to identify potential gaps
  • Examine how emerging cybersecurity challenges may fit into the enterprise’s cyber risk transfer strategy
  • Examine possible changes in coverage terms and conditions at renewal. As insurers assess losses post-pandemic, they may change in claim patterns.

Consider MDR

In the midst of the pandemic, this monitored service for endpoints has become a priority for many organizations. Antivirus on endpoints is not enough to protect your corporate data. The fact is that cyberattacks on endpoints are increasing rapidly in complexity and numbers. MDR includes the ability to stop threats before they are able to do any harm. Plus with a team of security analysts watching your systems 24/7, we’ll help you remediate any issues that may occur. 

Learn more about MDR from Cybriant here. 

Final thoughts

The pandemic has brought a new era in cybersecurity and IT experts that will raise their game in protecting their companies during this crisis period will be crucial in the re-opening of the economy. Enterprise managers need to keep an eye on the medium and long term, recognizing that telecommuting may become the norm for a majority of the workforce long after the pandemic has ended.

While educating the remote workforce about cybersecurity best practices is a great move, it’s not enough. The cornerstone for success lies in deploying technologies that are effective and quick to adopt.

At Cybriant, we help brands like you implement strategies that will increase your breadth and depth of security protection rapidly. 

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