Some of the recent attacks in the cybersecurity space have exploited fears of the coronavirus and got users to click emails with titles and subject lines related to the coronavirus. A few of these have tried to lure users with messages about precautions or vaccines for the coronavirus. Phishing campaigns with similar themes of the virus have gained access to personal data by getting users to download malicious malware.

Remote work settings have aggravated the problems for security teams. Some domains that claim to offer VPN software have also been found suspicious. While most employees working from home may require such a software, downloading from an unknown website can prove to be a dangerous proposition. In most of these instances, hackers have played with a users’ psychological fears of the pandemic and penetrated through secure accounts and data.

As multiple threats stare at a company’s assets and infrastructure in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, cybersecurity has become the the top priority for businesses today. Security operations must step up vigil to enhance security amidst the current crisis and remain alert to prevent a possible attacks. The lockdown situation has made it all the more critical for business enterprises to focus on cybersecurity and adjust their security tools for a remote work setting.

Crisis situations are often unprecedented and pose a serious threat of security breach for businesses at all levels. Lack of training for security teams to deal with unforeseen situations can also present fresh challenges for businesses. In the current situation of a global pandemic, hackers have found new ways to breach security and access protected data and systems. They can invade secure systems via multiple channels and tamper with sensitive information. As several new threats can harm security infrastructure, it is imperative for businesses to be extra vigilant in this hour of global crisis. Businesses must look at all possible resources and create new avenues for cybersecurity teams to work seamlessly and efficiently in the current crisis.

Remote work from home presents several challenges for security operations

While medical professionals and researchers across the globe struggle to develop a vaccine that can counter the deadly coronavirus, several governments continue to adopt stringent measures to minimise the impact of the outbreak. As a part of these stringent measures, all businesses have been asked to work remotely and provide employees the necessary option of working from home. Thus, employees do not need to travel to work and can stay indoors and exercise caution. The option to work from home offers flexibility and allows employees to work remotely from the comfort of their home. It also helps employees work at their own pace to maintain optimum productivity. However, despite these benefits, work from home also poses some critical challenges for teams such as security operations.

It is difficult to ascertain if all employees have secure Wi-Fi connections in place. At the same time, companies must ensure that employees have received adequate training and can adhere to security protocols while working remotely. Businesses use sophisticated security tools such as firewalls, virtual private networks (VPN) and anti-virus software to have a robust security system. When employees work from home, many of these security tools can be missing and this can result in an accidental download of malicious software. Also, as employees may not be trained to comply with set protocols, the threat can easily escalate and harm the company’s internal network. In such a situation, company accounts and protected data can be compromised.

The key challenge for cybersecurity teams and operations in the current situation of a lockdown is to connect and collaborate with other members on the team to resolve a security incident at a short notice. Thus, the primary challenge for the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is to ensure their teams have the resources and, more importantly, the skills needed to combat a security breach in the current situation. Also, as threats may impact multiple departments, cross-functional teams may be required to come together and collaborate to deal with an unforeseen situation. This also means that teams other than security must be trained to deal with the situation.

Remote work setting has also made systems more vulnerable and provided hackers with dangerous plans. In a remote setting, a hacker may pose as a company employee and trick the IT staff easily to gain authorised access. In another instance, a hacker can call a department and pose as a staff member from another department to access secure data.

Lack of preparation can prove to be costly

In the current situation of a nationwide lockdown, the lack of preparedness of cybersecurity teams can prove to be costly for a business and can have far-reaching consequences. Hackers can play with user sensibilities and psychological fears to invade security systems and protected data. A minor lapse in security can result in the loss of crucial data and sensitive company information. Also, as security teams may be caught unawares in such a situation, the risks of losing secure data and systems are tremendous.

There is an immediate need for businesses to assess the potential threats and rethink their security strategy. The current crisis is a testing time for security operations and teams must stand up to the challenge and be prepared to deal with malicious attempts. Businesses must lay clear guidelines and procedures for employees to follow while working remotely. They should ensure that security tools such as VPN are available for all remote employees. In case of a security breach, the business should have a clear action plan in place to detect the threat and minimise its impact. From an employee perspective, it is vital to adhere to the set guidelines and procedures. Employees must be extra careful while dealing with customer data and comply with data protection policies.

Trishneet Arora, founder and CEO of TAC Security.
Trishneet Arora, founder and CEO of TAC Security.
Image : Narendra Bisht

Views are personal.

The author is founder and CEO, TAC Securities.

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