Covid-19: An ally for hackers?

The coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has triggered the world’s biggest work-from-home experiment as countries are locking down and millions of people have been asked to self-isolate to stop the virus from spreading

Technological advancements have made working from home more accessible across all sectors.

Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN Teams (NordVPN’s cybersecurity solution for businesses), explains: “Nowadays, compared to 10 years ago, it is a lot easier to access emails, cloud-based filing, dial-in to calls and video conferencing remotely. All that makes working out of office more accessible.”

NordVPN is a service provider of personal virtual private networks (VPNs) which are used to encrypt your internet traffic and hide your IP and physical location.

“The interest in our services has increased between 30 to 40 percent,” Markuson says. “We can see that companies are exploring various cybersecurity options to ensure both safe and productive work from home.”

He continues: “Security is crucial, as hacks and data leaks don’t only bring financial loss – they may also mean lost customer trust and, in some cases, even bankruptcy. It’s important to note that employees’ errors are usually not deliberate. When working from home, people tend to be more relaxed and browse personal sites, which might not be secure.”

John McLoughlin is the chief executive officer of J2 Software (an information and communications technology distribution and value-added software reseller). He warns that companies should ensure they are protected from outside threats. “Unsecured home networks, default passwords and excessive social media sharing are opening up holes in business’s cyber security.”

He adds that with many employees working from home for the first time, during self-isolation or lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, there will be many new problems that might not have been addressed or maybe not even thought of.

“Most businesses have just started to realise the magnitude of the cyber risk and many started making changes in their traditional setups to match the threat,” he explains. “Many are doing quite a good job in traditional cybersecurity and have been adequately protecting the perimeter. Now they have been thrown a massive curve ball and are facing challenges that they never saw coming.”

 At the office these people are protected by secure WiFi and they sit behind company firewalls. The sudden move to home often means that the same people are now using laptops and desktops that have no firewalls and access systems using open remote-desktop sessions.

 “The simple truth is that simply picking up and moving people home without looking at the risks of remote connectivity can result in even more business disruption,” he says.

“There are simple steps to take; this could be an opportunity for a rapid and secure move to the new normal. Virtual work environments, collaboration and a remote workforce are now a reality. You can either do this safely and embrace the new situation or find yourself falling behind, or worse.”

 With many more workers outside the corporate boundaries, it is key to ensure compliance around data security. This includes issues like data encryption and remote backups. The process and need for improved cyber resilience is something that requires even greater vigilance as staff move out of the business and access corporate networks remotely.

McLoughlin says effective cyber risk management requires a comprehensive approach, combining risk assessment, measurement, mitigation and transfer, as well as planning. “The optimal programme will depend on each company’s unique risk profile and tolerance,” he points out.

Security challenges can also manifest whenever new technology is integrated into business infrastructure, bringing new and additional complexity to the company’s technology footprint. The risks and exposures presented by new technologies must be weighed against the potential transformative business effects, and risk tolerance varies both by industry and by individual company.

“There are tools to ensure security and compliance, which allow you to confirm that the work is being done and completed within policy,” he notes. “These tools will assist management without infringing on the user’s ability to complete their work.”

Here’s a brief rundown, from NordVPN Teams, of some tech tools that can be useful to replicate an office when working from home.

Video conferencing software

Regardless of the benefits that remote working brings, it also might seem quite lonely. That’s where video conferencing comes in handy. Face-to-face meetings are much more productive than emails or chats, and video conferencing is an effective alternative.

A webcam and a microphone

Essential tools for effective communication, most likely already installed on your laptop.

VPNs

VPNs encrypt the traffic and allow employees to access company servers.

Messaging platforms

Professional messaging platforms, such as Slack, make it quick and easy to communicate with co-workers. They also make file-sharing more instant and straightforward.

Other necessary office software

It is essential to ensure that employees have all the essential tools such as Microsoft Office. By providing that, it will prevent people from downloading illegitimate software.

PC/laptop

It’s best to use company-provided PCs and laptops. However, it might not be possible in all industries. Employers therefore need to make sure that employees have the required antivirus, firewall and other security software.

Time management tools

It’s very easy to lose track of time in an informal environment. Many useful tools help the user organise the time and use it effectively.

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