As if the exponential rise in phishing scams and malware attacks in the last five years wasn't enough, the COVID-19 crisis has worsened it further.
The current scenario has given a viable opportunity to cybercriminals to find a way to target individuals, small and large enterprises, government corporations.
According to Interpol's COVID-19 Cybercrime Analysis Report, based on the feedback of 194 countries, phishing/scam/fraud, malware/ransomware, malicious domains, and fake news have emerged as the biggest digital threats across the world in the wake of the pandemic.
|Image source: interpol.int|
There are primarily two reasons for emerging cyber threats in 2020:
- Most of the population is working, learning, shopping, or running their business from home, where they're using personal devices from the home/public internet connection, which are usually unsafe and hence highly vulnerable to cybercrimes.
- The cybercriminals are using the COVID-19 theme to exploit people and enterprises through malicious e-mails and domains. For example, many scammers have rolled out campaigns offering COVID-19 vaccines, free medical tests and testing kits, tax rebates for donation to pandemic relief funds, information on COVID-19 cases, and new job opportunities due to the economic downturn. Some have even launched fake e-commerce websites selling COVID-19 safety, health, and sanitization products.
Let's take a look at a few examples of cyber threats and security breaches that have taken place in 2020.
- In April 2020, swindlers impersonated the World Health Organization (WHO) to send e-mails to the public seeking donations to a fictitious COVID-19 fund.
- In March 2020, the Department of Justice in the United States filed a legal appeal in the federal court to shut down a website called coronavirusmedicalkit[.]com, which claimed to sell free vaccine kits.
- A phishingscam campaign sent out fake Zoom invites to employees from HR. The idea was to phish out their passwords.
- Several UK citizens received an e-mail from a fake government ID telling them to claim a tax refund to protect against the COVID-19 crisis.
- The Powershell malware attacks in 2020 have witnessed a sharp increase of 117% in North America.
- Ryuk has emerged as one of the biggest malware threats to US hospitals and healthcare providers in 2020.
Ways to Safeguard Against COVID-19 Digital Threats
Cyber risk management calls for both preventive and detective measures listed below:
1 — Educate Your Staff
Most phishing e-mails appear so legitimate that your employees are likely to open the attachment or embedded link without verifying the sender's e-mail id or the information in the message's body.
Create cybersecurity awareness among your employees to help them identify unauthenticated e-mails. Tell them to double-check the sender's e-mail address and look for grammatical errors or unusual requests. If they suspect anything, they should immediately get in touch with the IT team instead of forwarding the e-mail to co-workers.
2 — Encrypt and Backup Data
You must use full-disk encryption software to encrypt all sensitive data of your company, customers, and employees.
It is also always a good idea to take a system backup of your databases, files, and databases at regular intervals.
The general rule of backup is 3-2-1: create at least three copies, two of which should be on different mediums (devices/cloud), and one copy should be off-site for disaster recovery.
3 — Fortify Cybersecurity Policy for Remote Working
It is crucial to create a strict rulebook for your employees, laying down the protocol for using home computing devices and internet connection. They should use a secure internet connection, avoid the use of office devices for personal use, and store official files/information only on company storage systems.
Also, make sure that your company implements robust firewall rules and multi-layer authentication for VPN, critical business systems, and any other remote network connections. Let your employees know the company-approved applications and collaboration tools they have to use.
4 — Use Anti-Virus Solutions
This may sound like basic security protocol, but it is extremely important to install sophisticated and trustworthy anti-virus software on your company servers and devices.
5 — Secure Your Web and Mobile Applications
With COVID-19 pushing the world to embrace digital on every front, your web and mobile applications are more at risk from cyber threats and security violations. Hence, you must proactively monitor application security risks and take preventive measures to mitigate them.
You can do so by implementing AppTrana, a risk-based, fully managed application security solution offered by Indusface. AppTrana provides real-time protection against OWASP exploits, DDOS attacks, Bot Mitigation, and Zero-Day attacks.
You can also consider Indusface WAS, which is a comprehensive web application vulnerability detection solution. It provides Automated DAST Scanner combined with on-demand Manual Penetration Testing and false-positive removal via manual verification.
If you are looking for mobile security solutions, then Indusface MAS runs in-depth Pen-testing with multiplatform coverage, including iOS, Android, and Windows, for vulnerability detection.
COVID-19 has put the pressing need on organizations to re-strategize their cybersecurity policy to keep digital threats at bay.
It is also essential to understand that cyber threats are here to stay even after the ongoing pandemic because global digital usage is expected to increase continuously in the coming years.
Hence, it would help if you get prepared on all fronts to combat the cyber-attacks effectively.