Understanding some of COVID-19’s effects on security

by Jon Heimerl

08 April 2020

An scene of a road from rooftops

COVID-19’s impacting people and organizations around the world. It directly affects the health of many and impacts others who are not infected. It also impacts organizations as they strive to support their people through this global crisis while trying to manage some sense of ongoing business where possible.

In the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, organizations are finding new ways to operate. One of those measures is in support of organizational staff and the protection of society as a whole – creating a distributed workforce and having employees work at home. But some organizations may not be fully prepared to establish and maintain a virtual workplace in a secure manner.

These organizations may need to build the remote work functionality and get people working, then implement security to protect the existing operations. This is unfortunate from a security perspective, but it’s also real life.

A man working on a laptop

In the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, organizations are finding new ways to operate

Securing a remote workforce

Security of remote workers is not a simple task. But it doesn’t need to be overly complex if the organization can prioritize its needs. Ultimately, it needs to set its operational and security goals, then implement the security controls required to allow the business to operate in a secure and safe manner. Both the organization and its workers are operating in ways they’re not accustomed. This new way of work requires a fresh view of the security considerations of remote employees – new policies and new procedures. The organization will need to properly equip, train and support remote workers, but this is a process which consists of more than those three steps. The organization will need to maximize its ability to make the worker successful, and the worker will need to effectively communicate the extent to which their needs are being met.

A person on a video call with a team

The organization will need to maximize its ability to make the worker successful, and the worker will need to effectively communicate the extent to which their needs are being met

Cyberattacks brought on by COVID-19

And, regardless of the number of remote workers an organization supports, all organizations are being subjected to cyberattacks related to COVID-19. The earliest observed attacks trying to take advantage of COVID-19 were phishing attacks, which continue at an even higher rate with a wider variety of subjects and malware.

Attacks include evolving malspam campaigns that make use of ransomware, Trojan horses, information stealers, and fake websites. Additional attacks make use of redirects, DNS attacks, and a variety of other attacks with increasing regularity. Attacks are being conducted by cybercriminals, fraudsters, and even nation-state actors. With developments like the fact that about 2,000 coronavirus-themed websites are created every day, these attacks are likely to continue through, and beyond, the duration of this pandemic.

COVID-19 disrupts businesses and people in many ways. Our biggest job is trying to manage those disruptions as we try to go about our lives. For more information on COVID-19 related attacks, and managing security implications of remote employees, read the April 2020 edition of the GTIC Monthly Threat Report.

Jon Heimerl

Jon Heimerl

Senior Manager, Threat Intelligence Communication Team NTT Ltd.