COVID-19 opens Pandora’s Box of cybercrime
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on lives around the world could not be more evident. The crisis affects our physical and mental health, our economic prospects, and our connections with loved ones.
There is, however, a much more subtle side effect to the situation: the great wave of new cyber-attacks by criminals who see financial opportunities in the confusion, fear and new work habits resulting from the current scenario.
COVID-19 pandemic: new opportunities for criminals
Nowadays, every sense of fear and widespread confusion opens loopholes – in the form of an impulse to consume more information – that make phishing attacks more successful. It is worth remembering that this scam steals users’ personal and banking information, mainly via email.
In fact, since the beginning of the pandemic, many malicious emails have been circulating with the proposal to offer health and safety tips (even disguising themselves as messages from official agencies). In the meantime, many unsuspecting users have fallen into the trap of cybercriminals.
Once opened, the attachments and links of these contaminated emails infect users’ systems with ransomware and other threats, and can spread to other equipment. This situation poses even greater challenges for public sector institutions, which need to keep essential services functioning in the midst of social distance.
In this scenario, the massive transition of most companies to the home-office model ends up contributing to an increase in cybercrimes. It is necessary to consider, after all, that more and more users transfer their work to personal devices, which do not have the same protection as corporate computers.
Be warned: it is essential that this equipment for home use is also protected with anti-malware measures, patches to shield threats and regular backups.
Cybercrimes: what are the growing trends?
Amid the growth of virtual attacks in the coronavirus crisis, what are the types of threats that stand out? According to Acronis SCS, an American company specializing in security solutions, data analysis in recent weeks reveals a worrying rise in cybercrime cases.
From the company’s perspective, much of this increase is attributed to attacks that take advantage of the vulnerabilities of the current pandemic. The Acronis study, which looked at monitoring its partners, customers and external sources, identified two important statistics worldwide:
1. Ransomware threats
Ransomware threats have shown a steady growth trend. These “highs” appeared especially on weekends – probably a result of isolated employees working on Saturdays and Sundays on unprotected devices.
2. Crypto jacking attacks
In turn, crypto jacking attacks, in which secretly installed malware does cryptocurrency mining by draining the resources of other people’s computers, are also high.
According to Acronis, this can be attributed to the rise in the value of cryptocurrencies caused by economic chaos, in addition to the increase in the number of idle computers in companies’ empty facilities.
Practical actions to protect remote workers
Maintaining security in the online world is an increasing challenge as the home office model is adopted. Although the IT team in your business has some experience with cyber protection in remote work, now is a great time to review best practices in this context. Take note:
- Reinforce your current antivirus solution with anti-malware technology that can detect and eliminate unknown threats based on their behavior – which already includes most ransomware attacks;
· Don’t neglect vulnerability assessment and patch management just because the team is working remotely. It is worth remembering: vulnerable points that remain “abandoned” for weeks or months in the systems are great entry points for malware. Minimize risks with scheduled and scheduled software updates / fixes ;
- Likewise, maintain maximum attention in your backup routine for remote employees. Backup is still your most reliable line of defense against data loss risks;
· Bet on VPN connections to ensure secure access to sensitive business resources. In addition, be prepared to expand the VPN’s capacity to support the considerable increase in usage;
· Renew your focus on authentication. Essentially, working from home is the same as working from a small satellite office. In this scenario, two-factor authentication to log in remotely (mainly from mobile devices) is a simple and effective action to prevent unauthorized logins;
- Improve the quality of monitoring and inventory of sensitive corporate data. This is a good time to improve the management of the information that your employees are accessing and moving during work. Here, tools for sharing and secure data synchronization are welcome. Data loss prevention solutions can also detect the potential for critical data to leak through personal devices, cloud storage and other poorly protected locations. Therefore, establish a policy that prohibits the storage of large volumes of corporate information on non-corporate devices. Do not forget to ensure that the team understands and formally agrees with this security measure;
- Implement measures to protect mobile devices (laptops, tablets, and smartphones) against data loss if there is a physical loss of these objects (although these occurrences are less common due to social isolation). It is interesting to bet on disk encryption, the use of PIN codes for access and the activation of remote cleaning of any device, whether owned by the company or the employee at my ip zip code.
No one can predict how long the current crisis will last, but two things are certain:
1. Cybercriminals will never miss the chance to exploit a tragedy for their own benefit, as demonstrated by Acronis’ analysis and monitoring;
2. It is very likely that permanent changes will occur in many of our pre-pandemic behaviors and work habits.
In this scenario, the good news is that any efforts you make in the coming months (aiming to adapt the cyber protection of your business to the challenges of the new times) will be worth it in the future – and will continue to be worth it long after the worst of the crisis has already past .
So, what is your opinion about the Acronis study? For you, what is the best position of companies in the face of cybersecurity challenges that have been revealed by the COVID-19 crisis?