BullGuard’s Paul Lipman: “Security is imperative as Coronavirus-themed malware rises”

Paul Lipman, CEO at cybersecurity company BullGuard, looks at the current rise in Coronavirus-theme malware and why businesses of all sizes need to ensure their staff’s devices are safe when working remotely.

In this time of uncertainty change is rapid. Small and medium-sized businesses up and down the country are poring over the details of the government’s loan offerings, calculating future revenues and costs and sending people to work from home. Major urban centers are in near lockdown and millions of people have shifted to working from home in a matter of days.

Amid this, the emphasis is on making sure company operations don’t come to a grinding halt – but as a consequence, it’s easy to overlook cybersecurity. It can become an afterthought and understandably so. But with this in mind, cybercriminals have been quick out of the blocks and the number of Coronavirus themed malware attacks is rapidly rising. We’ve seen a flood of phishing emails as well as malicious websites and even apps hiding ransomware.

In Italy, phishing attacks aiming to steal remote log-in credentials more than doubled between 15 February and 15 March compared to other countries according to Cynet. Malicious log-in attempts also more than doubled starting from mid-January until the latest figures on 20 March. Malicious emails, hiding malware in attachments or links to malicious websites, almost tripled up to 15 March.

Given that Italy has become the European epicentre of the Coronavirus epidemic, it’s a stark warning to other countries. They too are set to see an increase in these attacks as greater numbers of people move to working from home. The attacks are also likely to become increasingly sophisticated and more prolific as the Coronavirus continues to spread. For instance, Coronavirus map malware is becoming a popular source of malware infection. Whether it’s a suspicious website or an Android app, criminals are using every trick in the book to steal data.

So how do small and medium-sized businesses address pressing cybersecurity issues without being distracted from their main goals? The first step is recognising that in the face of the daily onslaught of disturbing news, people who are working at home are more likely to click on bogus misinformation links whether in emails or on social networks.

It’s important then to ensure employees’ devices are running commercial grade endpoint security software with anti-phishing capabilities and that this is continuously updated. Ideally, companies would opt to centrally manage this via a cloud portal so that the company’s cybersecurity is always at its strongest and always ready for new emerging threats, even as employees are working from home.

Every employee should also be connecting to the internet through a VPN. This is especially important if employees are using public internet connections, although it’s generally good security practice to keep the VPN active at all times when accessing work data or services. The use of collaboration tools will likely increase and it’s important that these are also accessed via a VPN.

Remote working employees have a role to play too. Updating passwords and multi-factor authentication are a good start, while using a VPN should become a habit. And finally, keeping kids away from computers used for work is a good idea given that they can easily download games or other software infected with malware.

These are challenging times for small and medium-sized businesses. Amid the furious pace of change the last thing they need is the threat of cyber attacks hanging over their heads. They need to be able to set up remote working for employees simply and quickly using robust and proven technologies so they can concentrate on other pressing tasks. We are all in this together and for those of us in the cybersecurity industry it is our responsibility to help them do this.

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