Guest blog: Has COVID-19 Affected Cyber Security?


INSIGHT
Published
Aug 26th '20
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The coronavirus pandemic has been a troubling time for everyone. The lockdown measures which were put in place in early March changed how we behaved as a global society – with social norms potentially shifting forever.

 

The net result of quarantine was a lot more people spending time sitting at home, connecting to the internet. Whether it was watching crazy Netflix documentaries or spending one hour too many on YouTube, Ofcom found internet usage was up by a staggering amount, with the average adult spending as much as four hours every day online.

 

And while more time spent surfing the internet isn’t an inherently bad thing, the rapid increase in usage has had a huge impact on the world of cyber crime. As internet presence has risen, hackers and scammers have managed to follow (and exploit) the trend.

 

But just how much has this impacted the world of cyber security? Let’s take a brief look at the impact it’s had and what this could mean for businesses and individuals heading forwards.

 

The impact of COVID-19 on cyber crime 

Would it shock you to know that in the first month of lockdown alone, cyber crime rose by as much as 400%? Unfortunately, the uncertainty of an environment teeming with fear and anxiety proved to be the perfect breeding ground for a number of nasty schemes.

 

There have been a bevy of COVID-19-related crimes committed across the past few months. Some of the worst include:

 

  • Phishing scams. Emails have been sent claiming to be from trusted names like the NHS, HMRC or the WHO. These usually ask for log-in details, such as emails and passwords.
  • Malware. Spyware, trojans and other forms of invasive viruses have been included in publicly accessible COVID-19 maps and websites. These are not typically downloads people would associate with malware, which makes them particularly dangerous.
  • Shopping scams. As people scrambled to buy hand sanitiser and face masks, a number of fake organisations were set up to take people’s money (with no intention of ever supplying them with the items they’d bought).

 

With attention largely focused on stripping private data from businesses as well as individuals, most of these attacks have had a devastating impact. As of the time of writing, British companies have reported a staggering increase of 50% more cyber attacks so far in 2020 when compared to 2019.

 

Changing attitudes towards cyber security 

The natural response to this sudden explosion of cyber attacks has been a shift in attitudes when it comes to where business funds are going. A recent study by McKinsey highlighted how most companies they work with are changing where funding is headed for 2021.

 

Their reports showed just how differently businesses are going to approach their cyber security when their budgets are next calculated:

 

Source: McKinsey and Company

 

As you can see, all businesses will be focusing attention on increasing their network security. For larger companies, almost every aspect of cyber security management will be getting a revamp, as they shift attention towards protecting against online criminals.

 

The future of cyber security 

We probably never expected to experience anything like this as a society in our lifetimes. Plagues sound like mythical problems of the past, which couldn’t possibly impact the technological age of the 21st century.

 

But just as we’ve all grown and learnt as a result of this devastating virus, so too have cyber security systems adapted off the back of this influx of cyber attacks. The greater focus placed on protection has led to the championing of a four-step process to mitigate and manage the risk of a cyber attack.

 

The advice is to:

  1. Govern. Someone needs to be managing and monitoring any potential threats which could be a problem. This should ideally be a dedicated role for one or a few individuals.
  2. Prevent. Stop any issues from occurring by ensuring all gaps are plugged and security measures updated. Also educate employees as best as possible on what they can do to prevent themselves becoming a victim.
  3. Detect. Running regular checks will alert an organisation to the loss of any data. While this is never great, the sooner you identify how and why the data was stripped, the better.
  4. Respond. There should always be a contingency plan in case the worst happens. This will help a company to recover as quickly as possible.

 

If the pandemic continues, security systems will theoretically be more prepared for what’s to come. But it’s important not to remain stationary. As quickly as they adapt, so too do the criminals. The eternal battle rages on.

 

Author: Naomi Dawson

email Naomi

 

Nothing in this document should be treated as an authoritative statement of the law. Action should not be taken as a result of this document alone. We make no warranty and accept no responsibility for consequences arising from relying on this document.

 

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