The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world in many ways. Some for the better; others… not so much.
Cybersecurity is one area the pandemic has affected for the worse. The situation has presented cybercriminals with the opportunity to exploit the natural fear and curiosity around the situation; nothing gets people clicking on things they really shouldn’t quite like a tempting piece of info about the scariest thing to happen to humanity since the second world war.
As a result, in the midst of everything else the planet is dealing with right now, people and organisations are more at risk than ever of being successfully phished/social engineered/hacked.
This new reality is so important that the World Economic Forum (WEF) recently put out a three-point summary of why robust cybersecurity measures matter more than ever.
The cost of failure
The first one is not something people think about very often: that the cost of failing to protect ourselves digitally is very high.
That’s because we rely so heavily on digital tools and the infrastructure that supports them, so when they go down, we feel it acutely.
Worse, with the coronavirus pandemic in full swing, we’ve come to rely on them even more. We work from home, talk to each other on various messaging platforms, governments talk to their citizens via digital channels, and more.
A loss of any of those channels as the result of a successful cyberattack is potentially devastating.
And don’t think that’s a far-fetched scenario. Worldometers.info, a site that tracks and shares various data about our world, including accurate up-to-the-minute coronavirus pandemic information, has been a target recently. It plays a pivotal role in keeping the public informed about what’s going on.
Fear and uncertainty can be exploited
The second point is more obvious, and one we’ve already touched on: fear and uncertainty can be used to manipulate people into ignoring cybersecurity best-practices.
It’s only natural that people’s curiosity around the pandemic will over-ride their good sense. This drives up the number of people opening dodgy emails or clicking on malware-stuffed attachments.
It’s a cynical exploitation of a very human response to a horrible situation. But it’s a reality that we can change, says the WEF, which we cover further down in the article.
Riskier online behaviour
The third reason the WEF cites is a natural consequence of more people being online for longer than usual. And that’s what we’re collectively doing. Seeking entertainment on the web, and being more willing to visit dodgy sites that offer “free” access to TV shows and movies, for example.
In so doing, the door to cyberattackers is opening wider.
3 Things We Can Do
Fortunately, the WEF’s stance on the situation isn’t all doom and gloom. They offer three suggestions for things that can be done about it.
The first is the cybersecurity equivalent of washing your hands. They suggest taking the time to review your own “digital hygiene habits”.
Things to check:
- Your home router password
- Your home wi-fi password
- That your firewalls are active on your router and PC
- That you’re using a password manager like LastPass
- Ensure the VPN you’re using is from a reputable company and properly set up
Turn your vigilance up to 11
At the risk of stating the obvious, it pays to be more vigilant with your online wanderings now.
That’s what the WEF recommends, too:
- Be careful when installing new software and giving out personal information
- Don’t click on links from email (no matter how enticing they are!)
- Check that the URLs of any new services you sign up for are legit
- Do whatever you can to be sure that you don’t contaminate your home or work networks with viruses or malware.
Stick to official sources
When it comes to getting accurate to-the-minute news, it’s best to stick with official sources, says the WEF.
In the same way, only installing software and updates from official sources is best for your own digital devices. This ensures you’re as protected as you can be against application and operating system vulnerabilities.
If you read strange-sounding advice about addressing any technical problems you may be having with your devices, a good rule to follow is to verify that information from other online sources.
Preferably sources linked to the vendor of your software or device.
Be a part of the herd immunity
Under these circumstances, the best thing people can do to prevent the spread of malware is to regulate their own online behaviour to minimise the risk to everyone else on the internet.
Following these guidelines will lessen the cyber threat posed by public interest around the coronavirus pandemic.
And that’s good for everyone.