Humans are the weakest link in cybersecurity. Due to remote work, the focus of firms has shifted to cybersecurity, trust and protecting data. Businesses in several sectors are revisiting their digital preparedness to tackle cyber threats head on.
Why did the need arise?
In the pre COVID-19 era, since most employees worked from offices, their local area network (LAN) and the desktops/laptops were adequately secured. Sophisticated technologies could protect against cyber attacks that originated from the internet and targeted the enterprise network. Enterprise protection technologies secured the employees’ systems from targeted phishing campaigns that lured them into clicking on unknown links and attachments. Offices also offered security in the sense that employees could check in with their colleague in the neighbouring cubicle or their manager and alert the IT security team if they noticed any suspicious emails or links.
In the post COVID-19 era, only support staff personnel or those who need direct system/hardware access are working from the office. The rest of the workforce is operating from home. These remote workers are connected to more vulnerable networks.
Risks associated with remote work
Working remotely due to COVID-19 means having employees take home important company data with various risks of security breach at the employee’s end.
While organisations are offering secure virtual private network (VPN) access to employees, the first point of interface for the employee’s laptop or desktop is a broadband network, mobile hotspot or shared wireless network. Employees are connecting via home wireless routers, which have basic security for encryption of traffic. These devices might have default passwords for administration that are left unchanged by the home user. Employees could be working using a public Wi-Fi connection which could potentially share all the data with people using the same Wi-Fi or could also be stored on a server owned by attackers.
A standard practice by most of us is to keep our firewall switched off in order to access various content on the web or for downloading various software for our laptops. This poses an additional risk since employees could unknowingly end up with a Malware or Trojan that could not only put company data at risk, but also personal data.
Employees could also be under attack by Phishers who pose to be a legitimate platform usually over email but end up tricking people into providing confidential login credentials or any information which could be sensitive. According to a study by WMG and University of Warwick, 86% of all the cybercrimes that have taken place during the pandemic have involved Phishing.
Cybercrime has increased due to lack of difference in terms of devices for personal and professional uses. Hence, the easiest targets are employees who use the same phone/laptop for both purposes.
Notable cases of cybercrime include Nortel Networks, a Canadian Telecom company, which was hacked by Chinese attackers that posed as an APT (Advanced Persistent Threat), which finally led the company to go out of business.
Snapchat had a data breach exposing payroll information of all of their current and former employees along with their social security number by an attacker who pretended to be the company’s CEO and tricked an employee into handing out the sensitive information.
An Equifax employee failed to detect a simple security fix in his system which led to a breach of the data of 146 million Americans due to the mistake of just one individual.
Best practices to protect against cybercrime
Companies should keep in mind certain best practices to prevent becoming a victim of cybercrime. These practices include:
- Employee education and training related to how they could unknowingly put data at risk.
- Software checks in order to ensure no unwanted software or website can be opened to a potential security risk.
- Regularly changing of passwords should be made mandatory. Hashing and salting passwords can also help.
- Having files saved over cloud networks which are encrypted over local device storages.
- Deny permission to employees to access sensitive data by system administration and have a two factor authentication when necessary.
- Using email encryption for your email servers with Digital certificates (Hilary Clinton email controversy can be used as a case.)
- Organisations should conduct Red Team exercises that stimulate attacks via social engineering and compromise technology to understand the organisation’s capability to detect, respond and recover in time.
In conclusion, it is time now for cybersecurity leaders to re-visit their security measures and deploy new processes and technologies to fortify their digital architecture going forward! If you’re looking for experts in the field of cybersecurity, Globe Detective Agency are pioneers in the field.