With many employers throughout Northern Ireland conducting operations remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic, cyber-security may have never been as important for organisations to prioritise as it is now.
In addition to the increased amount of work, data, meetings and potentially sensitive information being communicated or conducted online, it is now known that cyber-criminals have indeed been attempting to take full advantage of the situation. According to an August report from INTERPOL, cyber-crime has seen a stark rise in frequency, as well as shifts in targets, since the beginning of the pandemic.
In recent months, cyber-criminals have made a noticeable change from targeting small businesses and individuals to large corporations, government bodies and critical infrastructure. As these organisations have implemented remote work systems and networks to assist employees working from home, cyber-criminals have been attempting to take advantage of new gaps in cyber-security systems.
INTERPOL’s report noted that since the start of the pandemic, the following cyber-crime patterns have been related specifically to COVID-19:
Cyber-criminals have specifically preyed upon fear of the pandemic by utilising coronavirus-themed phishing emails and impersonating government or public health officials in order to coerce victims into revealing personal information.
Cyber-attacks have also targeted critical infrastructure and health care providers. Criminals understand that these types of attacks can garner large ransoms due to the importance, impact and need for such targets to be able to operate efficiently.
Malware can be used by cyber-criminals to harvest data. This type of cyber-crime is also on the rise, with perpetrators using information related to COVID-19 to gain access to systems, networks and sensitive data.
Cyber-criminals have also been registering a large amount of fraudulent and malicious website domains, often including words likely to gain the attention of victims, like ‘coronavirus’ or ‘COVID.’ According to an INTERPOL private sector partner, there was a 569 per cent increase in malicious domain name registrations between February and March this year.
Despite the UK’s ongoing efforts to reduce lockdown measures and allow more employers and organisations to bring employees back to their physical workplaces, a large portion of the workforce continues to work remotely.
Given the threat that cyber-criminals continue to pose to organisations of all types and sizes, it is important to implement and deploy a number of general cyber-security measures. The use of a virtual private network (VPN) can be a particularly valuable security investment:
VPN servers can help prevent criminals from being able to access information, such as web traffic. These virtual conduits provide encrypted pathways through which data and internet traffic travel. As such, the eyes of potential cyber- criminals are kept blind.
VPN servers also cause employees’ devices to appear to have the VPN’s IP address, rather than that of the network an organisation is actually using. As such, cyber-criminals will not be able to track employees’ identities or locations.
For employees who may utilise public Wi-Fi networks, VPNs are of even greater importance. Public Wi- Fi, such as those available at coffee shops or airports, may not only leave users vulnerable to cyber-criminals monitoring the network, but also can be impersonated in an attempt to lure users into exposing information. Fortunately, VPNs will keep not only third-parties, but even the operators of the network from being able to access users’ data.
With so many employees working remotely, there is a far greater amount of potentially sensitive information or classified data travelling back-and-forth online. VPNs present a key element of cyber-security that should be highly considered by all organisations.
For more information and insurance solutions related to cyber-security, contact us today.