Cyber-criminals add to the woes of businesses in the post-COVID world

A far less obvious consequence of the pandemic and the focus on survival for many organisations has been how cyber-criminal were quick to recognise the potential weaknesses in hurriedly implemented remote working polices.

In 2020 there was a sharp increase in Coronavirus-themed scams, with many fake websites offering everything from virus information and cheap PPE, to COVID tests and vaccines, all designed to steal personal data and more.

A notorious Coronavirus-themed campaign targeted Japanese citizens with emails purporting to be from a Japanese welfare service provider, which in fact contained malicious attachments infected with Emotet malware.

The phishing emails appeared to contain important information about the spread of the virus and victims were encouraged to open the attachment for more news. Unfortunately, such an understandable reaction led to the virus to the victim’s computer.

The attack was a first in many ways, as the originators of the Emotet malware offered other cyber-criminals the chance to install their malware onto the victim’s computer, using the malware as a trojan horse to gain access.

This approach led to numerous banking Trojans and ransomwares infecting systems, which will spread laterally across the network after gaining access to a single device in the network.

Working from home increases the risks

Knowledge based businesses were able to respond quickly to the lockdowns, sending employees home to work, which unfortunately meant enterprise infrastructure and security was replaced by home Wi-Fi and virtual private networks (VPN), with an associated drop in protection.

The pandemic has seen a significant increase in security breaches, with remote workers reportedly responsible for breaches in 20% of organisations since the start of 2020, with EasyJet, NurseryCam, Microsoft and Npower, just a few of those to suffer major breaches.

Online shopping has increased annually, but perhaps unsurprisingly was given a boost in lockdown, rising from 20% of total retail sales in Jan 20 to 36% in Jan 2021. Unfortunately, yet again the criminals sensed an opportunity and developed scams related to parcel deliveries.

Potential victims would receive text messages or emails containing fake tracking links, which if clicked, install malware or direct users to websites that attempt to steal personal information from them – easy to detect if you are not expecting a delivery, but if you are, it’s easy to be fooled.

The switch to home working during the pandemic created new opportunities for criminals to prey on bored, isolated employees, concerned more with keeping their job than worrying about a sophisticated phishing campaign that could all of them at once – only one attack needs to be lucky.

It is critical that while focussing on their digital transformation, or choosing the best Hybrid Cloud solution, organisations remain vigilant, continue to raise awareness within their organisation of the phishing threat, and ensure security measures are current, patched and maintained.

If you would like more information or want to discuss security as part of a discussion around our Private and Hybrid Cloud solutions, please get in touch with me, Chris Baker, on 0333 800 8800 or email me at chris.baker@cce.co.uk