Hackers have been at work looking out for vulnerabilities and exploiting known ones as people, governments, businesses, and institutions rely heavily on the internet to continue their operations amidst the chaos resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center of the FBI recorded 791,790 complaints of suspected online crimes in 2020, recording a 300,000 increase from 2019 with the reported losses from these internet crimes exceeding $4.2 billion.
More than 60 teams reported an increase in the number of cyberattacks in their organizations since the beginning of the pandemic.
Among the leading crimes in 2020 are phishing attacks, malware and ransomware attacks, delivery scams, and extortion. Government institutions, businesses, and health facilities saw an uptick of attacks as these criminals targeted their operations as the pandemic spread.
Schools have also been a victim of these attacks, with denial of service attacks targeted at these institutions thus preventing the continuation of remote classes.
Cyber attacks amidst the pandemic have evolved from phishing emails to the impersonation of key organizations and attacks on the COVID vaccine supply chain.
The attacks have also become sophisticated with more organized criminal groups and state-sponsored attackers behind these attacks, especially targeted against governments and corporations. These sophisticated attacks are more difficult to detect.
Increased Cybersecurity Skills
Increasing security challenges amidst the pandemic challenged IT experts worldwide to develop their cybersecurity expertise to fight these challenges. According to research by Sophos, the rise in cyberattacks during the pandemic led to an 82% increase in the security skills of IT teams worldwide.
The demands on these teams increased as more organizations became dependent on technology and the internet. IT teams had an increased workload, which also allowed them to learn new security measures to protect their organizations.
These professionals were critical in helping organizations prevent and respond to cyber threats. They helped businesses, healthcare, and education institutions move their services online despite the difficult circumstances most of these companies faced.
Fighting The Threats
More than a year after the pandemic, organizations continue to experience different types of cyber threats. For most organizations, focusing on the human element has been rewarding as most of these criminals targeted vulnerabilities arising from human error. Some of the tactics businesses have employed to deal with the rising threat of cyber-attacks include:
Human error presents the biggest security risks to organizations, including those with the most secure and impenetrable systems. The element of human error has become an even bigger threat as employees work from home most of the time.
These workers were more vulnerable to phishing scams and other attempts by hackers to steal personal or corporate information.
Educate your employees on cybersecurity best practices. They should know what phishing attacks look like and the steps they can take to protect themselves. Some of these steps include:
- Using strong and unique passwords
- Using antivirus software
- Creating a backup of their files
- Avoiding public hotspots or using a reliable VPN if they must use a public or unsecured Wi-Fi
Using a VPN
A VPN improves your security and privacy online by encrypting your data. It also hides your IP address, thus concealing your location. Depending on the VPN, you might get additional security features such as changing your IP, blocking malicious ads, and no logs of your online activity. If you consider using a free VPN do your research first. Some of these free services log your internet activity and location. Some even store your data. Find a service provider that has a no log policy.
Using Multifactor Authentication
Multifactor authentication provides an additional layer of security. It will increase the time it takes a cybercriminal to crack a password, thus reducing the chances of a breach. Multifactor authentication requires at least two pieces of evidence that prove your identity.
The pandemic saw a rapid increase in the number and severity of cyberattacks targeting organizations, businesses, and individuals. IT experts and businesses have risen to the challenge and adopted security measures. This includes employee training and the use of VPNs to keep their data and networks safe from criminals.