Covid took the world by storm roughly a year ago, changing daily life as we knew it. Then, while everyone was busy trying to avoid the virus, cybercriminals were already figuring out how to capitalize on it. The confusion and desperation created a perfect environment for hackers to strike, causing headaches for everyone from the healthcare industry to education and beyond. From the mass migration to remote work and eLearning, to ransomware campaigns and phishing scams, we examine how this virus affected not only our physical health but our online safety as well this past year.
Cybersecurity pros are very adaptable, they have to be, but no one was prepared to deal with a pandemic of this scale. Attempts to slow the spread meant staying away from others as much as possible, forcing many employees to quickly transition from office environments to remote work. Schools also had to move their students from in-person schooling to at-home virtual learning. This sudden dependence on technology and the internet at such a massive scale proved challenging for security and IT teams, and expanding one’s network perimeter in the name of business continuity has its risks.
Staying secure proved even more difficult when hackers began using the coronavirus as bait in their phishing campaigns. They take advantage of those wanting more information by posing as reputable organizations and getting targets to click links or open malicious attachments in their fake emails. Unfortunately, hackers are becoming more adept at creating these fakes and making it increasingly difficult to distinguish between real emails. According to SonicWall’s Cyber Threat Report, ransomware has also spiked since the pandemic started, with many schools and healthcare organizations being targeted, as they are the most vulnerable.
However, there is a silver lining because we can use the past year's struggles to our advantage. We can learn from what we've experienced and use that knowledge to improve and overcome. For one, cyber resilience means a better business continuity plan. Organizations that were already well-equipped for the shift to remote access had a much easier time than those who weren't. Those that already had a well-organized security team in place were able to adapt and react with more flexibility to any challenges. We hope this realization will see more organizations making cybersecurity a priority in the future.
Another important takeaway is that education and awareness are more important than ever. Phishing and ransomware campaigns spiked to record highs during the pandemic. The best way to keep these scams from being successful is to provide awareness about them. Anyone who uses the internet needs to be aware of these threats because, at some point, they're going to encounter an online scam. For companies, it is even more vital that their workers are educated because one wrong click can bring their entire business to a halt and put people's personal information at risk.
Cybersecurity has taken several hits over the past year, and we're not out of the woods yet. That's why it's so important that we recognize what changes need to be made and act accordingly. Adapting and preparing is the only way we'll be able to overcome any new challenges the future throws at us.
Written by Elizabeth Dasenbrock
Elizabeth Dasenbrock is a marketer/graphic designer whose mission has always been to creatively express stories and ideas. Her skill set allows her to convey concepts to particular audiences in a visually appealing way. At TechGuard, she works on the marketing team with a focus on graphic design. In her free time, she can usually be found working on personal creative projects, tending to her houseplants, or spending time with friends and family.