When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, businesses had little time to prepare to go remote. Entire industries have shifted to work-from-home strategies with little or no cybersecurity training. Because many prioritized urgencies over security, vast vulnerabilities now exist.
Digital thieves are rolling out thousands of coronavirus-themed schemes or just straight-up hacking business networks. In the criminal mind of a hacker, the current situation is like shooting fish in a barrel. If your organization was forced to pivot to a remote workforce expediently, these are cybersecurity risks that could upend your day-to-day operations.
1: Unpatched Employee Programs
It’s not uncommon for workers to dismiss time-consuming program updates and patches. Everyday people often think that the programs work, so why bother. Unpatched programs are generally not a significant threat to business networks. But now that industry leaders are asking workers to use their home computers to access business data. A frightening cybersecurity vulnerability is being exposed.
Unpatched programs are a primary target in spear-phishing schemes. Cybercriminals may exploit a system by sending what appears to be a needed update for standard applications such as Adobe PDF Reader or Microsoft Office, among others. Considering employees are now working from home, it seems reasonable to update such programs, and people move forward with confidence. Once someone takes the invitation to visit the phony patch website, the device and company data can be breached.
2: Devices Lack Business-Grade Protections
To say residential and business-class cybersecurity protections are worlds apart would be something of an understatement. But the rapid change from employees enjoying enterprise-level antivirus software and firewalls at the brick-and-mortar facility to everyday home computers creates a stunning cybersecurity gap.
A hacker with mid-level experience can waltz right through the subpar defenses of many personal devices. Home computers may not have been a high priority on the hacker exploitation list before. However, those weak devices have become gateways to valuable industry data.
3: Business Data Migration
Before COVID-19 turned the 9-to-5 workday on its head, many companies housed critical data on in-house networks. Organizations that relied on in-house storage may be allowing employees to keep sensitive industry data and financial information on home computers. This recipe for disaster is precisely what cybercriminals are looking to exploit — high-value data stored on devices with low-level defenses.
4: Insecure Connectivity
The cybersecurity of wireless connections in everyday homes pales in comparison to business-grade protections. Home routers can have inherent cybersecurity flaws that are relatively easy for hackers to exploit. Many of these devices do not get updated in a timely fashion, or ever for that matter. That’s why outfits that had the luxury of planning a remote workforce established enhanced protections such as virtual private networks (VPN). These and other cybersecurity measures can render remote connectivity virtually invisible to hackers.
5: Lack of Cybersecurity Training
The business disruption caused by the spread of COVID-19 and subsequent Stay at Home mandates did not allow new remote workers to become adequately trained. Far too few understand how digital con artists exploit endpoint devices and remote workers.
Schemes such as phishing, spear-phishing, or the ways ransomware and other malicious applications operate, remain undefined for workers. Couple that problem with the fact that cybercriminals have trolled out highly sophisticated COVID-19 scams, and it’s safe to say workers have been placed in an unfairly compromised situation.
While these are vulnerabilities that hackers are exploiting, industry leaders have an opportunity to harden their cybersecurity defenses. Remote connectivity can be quickly shored up with VPNs, upgraded antivirus software, business-grade firewalls, encrypted data transmissions, and ongoing cybersecurity awareness training, among others. If you implemented a work-from-home strategy to weather the COVID-19 crisis, schedule a complimentary consultation with an HRCT technology professional.