The susceptibility to threats soars in times of crisis. What pivotal aspects companies forgot in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic?
One of the biggest checkmarks that lots of companies missed is cybersecurity. According to various sources, around 80% of CISOs admit having sacrificed it in an effort to enable employees to work remotely. Some incidents were less serious, when kids crashed Zoom meetings or prank videos were streamed during online school lessons. But there were major incidents, ending with millions of dollars being lost to crypto viruses attacking hospitals and other public care facilities. A real black hat hacker has no remorse. They don’t care if cyber-attacks will prevent someone from getting medical attention in time: in one German hospital, a patient has died in the aftermath of a ransomware attack.
Which industries were affected the most and what lessons others should draw from it?
The medical industry has faced a tremendous increase in data traffic and it has made hospitals and medical professionals highly vulnerable to cyber threats. Doctors, logistics staff, scientists, and other healthcare workers have had to be on the same page all the time to control the situation, and the hackers knew that. People from all around the world are still joining online meetings, sharing their work, and making major decisions over the internet in the comfort of their home, so malicious actors keep trying to exploit this somewhat new style of work. The main takeaway here is to remember that the same rules apply wherever you’re working from: home offices must thoroughly follow the corporate security guidelines.
There have been winners as well as losers. Who has benefited from the remote working trend?
While some enterprises drew great attention from cybercriminals, others thrived, especially those who provide the tools needed to establish secure connections to the corporate network, conduct meetings online or share files outside the company’s perimeter. For example, our business solution NordVPN Teams has seen a 165% usage spike, reflecting the need for secure remote access. The same applies to the whole market for cloud-based solutions. Zoom Video Communications had its stock price doubled in the first months of the pandemic. It’s a great platform to meet and collaborate with co-workers remotely, so naturally, its popularity has grown exponentially.
However, it didn’t take long until bad guys got their eyes on it. At the very beginning of massive confinement, it was plagued with hecklers crashing unprotected meetings. As “Zoombombing” might not sound that harmful, there was huge potential for information leaks as unauthorized people joined private conversations. Just imagine discussing the launch of a new product with the eavesdropper being present for example.
New year, same habits: any specific cybersecurity mistakes that we should be worried about this year?
The security team at Zoom was quick to take adequate actions and mitigate risk, but these cases highlight a much bigger problem: a lack of basic alertness by the people who use it. This meant that most of the invaded conference rooms were not protected by a password. One might say that Zoom was flawed by design as passwords were not enforced by default, but it’s not fair to put the blame on them for something as trivial as a simple password. It’s the general lack of awareness we should be addressing, and that continues into this year.
What are the weakest cybersecurity links, especially while working remotely?
The pandemic has demonstrated that people are susceptible to social engineering attacks, something that could be described as “hacking of the human mind”. It’s a set of techniques (e.g. phishing, baiting, pretexting, etc.) to gain trust, extort information, or use someone to get access to personal or professional data. As most of these attacks are easily detected, more advanced hackers sculpt their attack to be extremely convincing. Frequently, social engineering is the first step of a massive attack. Hackers use this technique to smuggle malware into the user’s device or to compromise credentials. If they succeed, they carry on with a severe attack on the infected machine and, possibly, the corporate network it is connected to.
Any examples of how human error contributed to successful attacks?
During the pandemic, attackers started impersonating medical professionals, government representatives, or charity seeking agents urging people to donate and help to fight the virus. As the accurate statistics are hard to calculate, most companies started noticing a substantial increase in these attacks. Cybercriminals usually approach victims’ sentiments, and try to negotiate on an emotional level. The chances of success are multiple times higher in the context of an ongoing crisis.
What’s the situation today? Have we learned the lessons?
Overall, it’s not terrible. Basic information security awareness is something that slowly carves its way into every company’s onboarding checkmarks. More and more employers are interested in information hygiene as they need to protect their personnel as well as their business. Just remember that changing your password once every few months is like applying disinfectant to your hands, and making your password complex and harder to guess is like washing them for at least 20 seconds. There is no way that people from the marketing, sales or accounting departments will remember all of the cybersecurity jabber, so the security professionals should communicate with them in a clear and down-to-earth manner. Staying resilient is within everyone’s best interests.
Any trends that enterprises should be aware about?
Tech landscape changes rapidly, way faster than the human brain adapts to the novelties. That is why AI is on everyone’s lips right now. This innovation might solve the challenges our mind is too limited to settle, but it can also be turned against lawful citizens and businesses. The advent of 5G and remote work will make workspaces more flexible and mobile. To tackle the hardships of de-perimeterization, companies will have to adopt cloud services and the appropriate means to secure them.
ABOUT NORDVPN TEAMS
NordVPN Teams is a cloud-based VPN for business from the world’s most advanced VPN service provider, NordVPN. NordVPN Teams has a full range of features to ensure convenience and powerful digital protection for organizations of all sizes, freelancers, and remote teams. NordVPN Teams offers advanced 256-bit encryption, secure remote access, malware blocking, two-factor authentication, unsecured traffic prevention, automatic connection on Wi-Fi networks, and 24/7 customer support. NordVPN Teams is available on all major platforms. For more information: nordvpnteams.com