by Yasmin Purnell, Content Writer, MoneyTransfers.com
For the past year, COVID-19 has taken precedence over every headline. The pandemic has forced the entire world to rethink the way we live our lives, with almost every industry and sector feeling the impact in one way or another.
Entire organisations and businesses have had to quickly adapt to the demands of social distancing in order to keep employees and others safe, and this in turn has led to a huge increase in our reliance on technology to enable remote working.
While the internet has undoubtedly been a saviour in helping people stay connected and businesses stay open, there are always criminals finding ways to capitalize on the way the world has changed. In this article, we’ll be looking at the impact COVID-19 has had on cybersecurity.
There has been a significant increase in phishing scams and hacking attempts over the past year, with criminals taking advantage of the confusion and fear that has surrounded COVID-19 for much of the past year.
A report from OpSec Security showed that 51% of consumers noticed an increase in phishing activity during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly half (48%) of those surveyed saying they expected to be affected by a data breach at some point in the future.
Some of the most common place COVID-19 scams seen by businesses and regular consumers alike include:
- Phishing emails offering fake medical advice with links that will download malware onto your device
- Criminals attempting to extract financial information by posing as a government organisation offering financial aid (business loans, grants etc) during the pandemic
- Scams selling PPE and other equipment to businesses (and then not delivering the product once payment has been received)
- Hackers targeting vaccination centres and holding the data ransom
- Posing as government organisations and issuing ‘fines’ for breaching lockdown rules
- Fake emails advising people to provide their personal details to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccination and pay for it
- Hackers posing as users/employees to gain network access to organisations
While the criminals orchestrating phishing scams have targeted anyone and everyone in one way or another, the heightened threat to cyber security is likely to have been felt even more so by organisations adapting rapidly to deal with the new realities of remote working.
Heightened security risks from remote working
With a huge rise in employees working from home and relying on remote technology to keep them connected and students now doing the majority of their learning online, the risk of hacking attempts and security breaches across virtual networks has also increased.
Virtual private network (VPN) servers have been an essential element for many companies and schools to keep connected and operational over the past year, and their availability is likely to be a major focus in keeping networks secure.
In addition, it’s likely that certain security measures may have been side-stepped in the haste for organisations to allow remote working on a large scale, leaving networks more vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Cyber security less of a priority
In unprecedented times, it’s highly likely that organisations would have been prioritising other things above cyber security. For example, simply ensuring business processes remain operational and profitable is likely to have taken top priority, as is ensuring the general well being of employees facing isolation and difficult working conditions at home.
With a focus elsewhere, there are likely to be situations in which IT functions are operating at a lesser capacity than usual, cyber security processes are overruled, or IT support is less available. In turn, this makes organisations more vulnerable to cyber threats.
It’s clear that COVID-19 has changed the way the world operates, and in many ways, that includes our approach to cyber security in order to keep businesses and individuals safe when operating on a more remote level. What remains to be seen is how we can learn from the crisis of the past year to improve digital security as a whole in the long-term.
About the Author
Yasmin is the content writer for MoneyTransfers.com. With an English degree from the University of Nottingham and over 5 years’ experience freelancing in the personal finance niche, Yasmin joined the team with a mission to make international money transfers accessible and easy to understand for all. When she’s not writing, you’ll find Yasmin on her yoga mat or planning her next escape to the mountains. Yasmin can be reached at our company website https://www.moneytransfers.com.