Business opportunity for Hackers: Security in vulnerable times

Technology | 2 minutes to read

18th Apr, 2020

Ink on the Business Continuity Plans worldwide has dried. Or must I say, in the light of digital era – they are lying in the old mail section of the inbox working as reference for the organisation? Either way, we agree that the unprecedented turn of events has delivered a good shock to the global economy. The pandemic while it has forced many process changes across organisations to ensure business continuity, it has also brought to the forefront the suddenness of it all and the readiness of IT infrastructure to support the changes. The digital realm right now is the busiest and crowded space to be in and coupled with heightened security risk besieging internet gateways, cyberattackers are kind of celebrating!

Vectors facilitating cyberattacks

 Mass adoption of ‘work from home’ has opened the pandora box of security challenges brought on by access to the expanded network, unsecured data passage, weak firewall settings and the burgeoning mind-set of employees of getting things done by bypassing security controls if need be. Lockdown has also hiked up activities on online services platform, live streaming networks and community apps – fast becoming a gold mine for cyberattackers to exploit.

Social engineering via phishing emails has been a long-term ploy in cyberattacks. We have seen the bogus hiring mailers circulated by attackers from the ids of top IT firms of the country that asked for money deposits from the applicants. Right now, with increased access to online services – groceries, home services, health consultancy, money transactions etc, scammers are threatening to access security credentials by perpetrating malware emails. Security systems like Malwarebytes & MS Defender can help thwart such phishing attacks.

The pandemic has triggered a wave of new websites, applications, domains to spread information on COVID19 and share regular updates to combat the virus spread which in itself is not problematic. However, many of these platforms are installed via downloads and have weak security systems. You download these applications that promise to give you a view of real-time map of Corona spread or country wise corona affected populace stats and they have hidden malware that is aimed at stealing confidential user data. Once installed, these malware can wreak havoc of any level that scammers want to. Some of these malware are also a type of ransomware – malicious codes that hold data as ransom forcing the owner to pay up in order to get access to his won data or stop the attackers from making the data public. We all know the recent ransomware attacks on the government website of Andhra Pradesh and also the more popular Facebook. Spywares – codes that spy on your systems to steal data, spoofing, etc also count amongst the cyber threats that have become rampant with an increased number of connected devices and weak security controls.

Thwarting vectors

 In these situations, it becomes pertinent that IT teams step up the security controls and make it more robust.  They should start from focussing on the critical operational process first. This would ensure that even if cyberattacks happen, it is the fringes that get affected and the core stays stable avoiding major hiccups for business. Security operations involving remote access to data, multiple verifications for access, tracking new cyber threats and focussing on the way around newer threats is a tedious task but one that commands much weight and priority in these times. Work from home structure requires increased VPN accessibility to fortify the security. Possibly revisiting access protocols for remote devices shall help in monitoring the threat situation much better.

Testing of security controls involving critical business continuity and disaster recovery operations should be undertaken right away. A risk-proof environment is a myth, true, but ensuring minimal risk with the quick and strong response is a possibility that we must never undermine. Monitoring employee’s systems to guard the inter-network operations and access to user end-points can also help thwart any operational issues that may crop up.

To summarize, IT teams should enforce these basic measures

Virtual Private Network (VPN) should be made mandatory for work from home structure

Phishing awareness for employees should be undertaken with some basic rules in place, like usage of only password protect wi-fi and no logging on to public wi-fi from office device.

IT teams should have back-up data in place and must also that anti-virus software on employee’s work systems are up to date

While the pandemic has opened the floodgate to the digital realm, and it has become the hot spot of socializing and working it is important that we all understand the criticality of securing our systems and traversing the digital world responsibly. A strong cyber resiliency in terms of abiding by the security controls shall help us keep safe.

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