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Key practical cybersecurity tips for businesses and employees during Covid-19

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From a business viewpoint, the global coronavirus pandemic has left many scrambling to find a way to ensure business continuity in a time of unparalleled uncertainty. We know the government has encouraged home working, but due to the swiftness in which everything changed due to the widespread lockdown, cybersecurity may have been forgotten or even overlooked. If left ignored, this can have serious consequences for both your business and your employees. To avoid such predicaments, and to keep your cybersecurity exposure to a minimum, here are some practical tips to ensure your business and employees are kept secure while working from home over the coming weeks and months.

Tip 1: Be mindful when conference calling

With remote working seemingly the norm for a substantial amount of the population, conferencing calling services like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype are among the leading sites that are heavily utilised to conduct work related duties, as well as to communicate with colleagues and customers. However, with vast amounts of data being shared across these channels, users must be wary that they do not share too much, especially if it inadvertently breaches privacy or security. Given the dependence on this form of communication, Zoom attacks have surged of late.

To avoid being embroiled in a breach of GDPR, it is imperative to ensure when using one of these services that the unique conference link is only shared with those necessary. Widely exposing this link can allow anyone to enter the meeting and potentially spy in on a private conversation, leave inappropriate messages or even steal data from this channel. To be extra secure, when creating an online-meeting or virtual room, ensure the invitation settings are made private and carry-out an attendance check before commencing.

Tip 2: Security threats are mounting so ensure software is up to date

Hackers have shown no signs of remorse, given that many have been affected by Covid-19, and so businesses must remain on high alert as there is now an even greater dependence on software to support the workforce. This also includes monitoring for updates and security checks on software, websites and applications used, because any unpatched vulnerabilities could lead to a catastrophic data breach. Our recent threat intelligence research into CVEs flagged ‘CVE-2019-11510 Pulse Secure Authentication Bypass Vulnerability’ with a high likelihood of being exploited, which if left unpatched is an open pathway for hackers through the Pulse VPN used by many companies during the pandemic. This critical flaw should therefore be fast-tracked for patching as it could be a way for a hacker to retrieve access to business systems, potentially exploiting critical information including passwords or other sensitive data.

Recently, cyber-attackers have shifted their aim to try to exploit vulnerabilities within the operating software regularly used by businesses today, including Microsoft 365 and Wordpress, which are most vulnerable during working hours. It is therefore advised to conduct regular and, if possible, continuous vulnerability assessments, on all systems and software to guarantee that no patches are missed or, at a minimum, the most severe are prioritised.

Tip 3: Shadow IT and cloud data leaks on the rise

As more staff than ever working remotely it’s unsurprising that shadow IT is on the rise. Whilst businesses try to maintain operation as usual, workloads have shifted to the cloud creating security shortcomings. A lack of cloud governance in the new ways of working could spell security disaster in the long term. Cloud environments are notoriously easy/cheap to set up but hard to secure/monitor due to the dynamic nature. If left unchecked these issues could lead to security challenges including misconfigurations (the most common reason for data leakage), compliance and data sovereignty issues. It’s therefore more critical than ever to continue practicing the same security fundamentals as before and extends to the cloud and multi-cloud, ensuring you’re not left vulnerable to security flaws that could come back and haunt you later and take a large amount of budget and resource to fix.

To combat shadow IT issues without adding security burden, automate cloud security assessments to identity and monitor any system flaws including misconfigurations and workload vulnerabilities, and ensure your tools provide a single view of where your critical assets are and what their security posture are across multi-cloud.

Tip 4: Avoiding employees being targeted while at home

As employees adjust to working from the comfort of their own home, security awareness may be relaxed or even forgotten, and this is what cybercriminals are counting on as there has been an uptick in the number of phishing threats now seen. Cybercriminals are quick to change and tailor their attack methods to align with a specific event, holiday, political situation and, in this case, the coronavirus, so it is vital to remain wary of any tell-tale signs of malicious activity.

We recently identified a number of security vulnerabilities that could put homeworkers at risk. Home routers Netgear and Apple devices include vulnerabilities caused by outdated software and limited authentication are ones to watch. Whilst your employees can remain security aware through training and internal policies it’s important to alert them to potential threats posed by at home working and ensuring staff know to update software on their vulnerable devices. Routers should be sufficiently checked, authenticated and verified to ensure catastrophic man in the middle attacks don’t happen.

During this uncertain time, following security fundamentals and best practices should not be overlooked when trying to maintain a strong security hygiene. Cybercriminals will try to exploit any sign of weakness within business infrastructure, whether that be through the utilisation of technology or by exploiting the human-element. During this period and going forward, security cannot be overlooked especially when employees and customers are counting on businesses to do the best for them.

Remain vigilant, have security in mind and if it’s a necessity, reach out and outsource any security to a specialist – we don’t want you or your business getting caught out!

Martin Jartelius, CSO, Outpost24