After declaring a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, one of the key preventive measures for the spread of Covid-19 is social distancing which has been widely adopted with countries such as Uganda undertaking the same before any case was yet confirmed.
With the massive global lockdown, there has been an affluence of the social life of billions of people to the virtual space. This influx is vastly characterized by a huge application of digital tools and platforms for multiple daily life routines including but not limited to work. According to a ranking by Priori Data, across android and Apple store platforms, video conferencing apps such as zoom have topped download chats with over 62 million downloads in one week of March 2020 from the 14th to 21st. At the same time, Google’s hangout Meet and Google classroom were witnessing strong downloads all over the world as workers and students were remotely applying them for work and study.
Apricorn research published last year found that one third of IT decision-makers admitted their organizations had suffered a data breach as a result of remote working. Further, 50 per cent were unable to guarantee that their data was adequately secured when being used by remote workers.
The surge in virtual conferencing and other collaboration tools could expose more vulnerability for hackers to exploit. “Companies quickly adopting consumer-grade video conferencing can make it easy for an attacker to pretend to be a member of staff,” points out Elliott Thompson, principal cybersecurity consultant at SureCloud. “The industry is going to have to be dynamic and responsive on this front as we always try to be.”
However, as we navigate the challenges paused by this pandemic with immense increases in the number of people working remotely; it is of paramount significance that we also pay heed to our cyber hygiene. The World Economic Forum approximated that from 2019-2023, at least 5.2 trillion US Dollars in global value will be at risk. The current massive exodus to online platforms accelerates this risk and could extend the numbers. In the UK alone, victims lostover £800,000 to Covid-19 scams in February, reports the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. One unlucky person in particular was left £15,000 lighter after buying face masks that never arrived. Who would self-assuredly guess at the April global figure?
Uganda alone annually looses at least 52 million USD (192 billion shillings) in cyber attacks. The relief support amounts hitherto collected to alleviate the economic impact of the lockdown on the citizenry by corporations and good Samaritans are inconsequential compared to that loss.
The World Economic Forum has further emphasized that “In this critical time, business leaders have a heightened responsibility to set clear expectations about how their organizations are managing security risk in the new work environments, leveraging new policies and technologies and empowering their employees. It’s important that messages on security come from the very top of an organization, and those good examples are set from the start”. Business leaders should unequivocally work with their security teams to identify likely attack vectors as a result of more employees working from home and prioritize the protection of their most sensitive information and business-critical applications.
Robert Krug, the network security architect for antivirus software giant Avast, offers more evocative advice. “Computer viruses can spread just as easily as human viruses,” he says. “Just as you would avoid touching objects and surfaces that are not clean, so should you avoid opening emails from unknown parties or visiting untrusted websites”.
“In short, the same steps that one takes to ensure they don’t get sick should be translated into steps that keep devices and networks secure. You may use hand sanitizer to remove germs from your hands, and you should have an effective antivirus solution to keep germs off your computers and networks.”
It goes without saying that added private responsibility of taking the appropriate steps to protect your organization’s data is paramount while connected. Otherwise, attackers are pouncing on many people and enterprises which are not applying the same security on their home networks that would be in place in a corporate environment with secured systems and devices.