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How business security postures changed in 2020, has the door been left open for cyber crime?

One of the many grim realities of COVID-19 is that the potential for cyber-crime, has increased dramatically for many businesses, as staff have been encouraged to work from home for much of the year.

As we enter into the new year and begin to reflect on our 2020, it would seem that only one topic dominates the entire year: Coronavirus. The virus has changed the lives of many and turned the UK on its head. The pubs are closed, the masks are out, and the business landscape has completely transformed.

To adapt to this new and difficult landscape, businesses have had to make quick transitions, with remote offices springing up overnight in kitchens and spare rooms. This of course has had it’s benefits, but for an organisation’s cyber security, home connectivity and protection simply don’t match up to the enterprise-grade security found in offices and workplaces.

THE TARGET HAS GOT BIGGER FOR CYBER-CRIMINALS

In recent years, with the rise in cloud services and mobile devices, it has become easier and easier to work outside of the company office and some businesses had already slowly started to make this transition. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused a seismic shift pretty much overnight. The main focus for companies was, initially, to get people to successfully work from home as quickly as possible. The stringent security measures that would normally accompany a more gradual move of this nature often dropped in priority.

Imagine cyber-crime as a dart board, under the usual secure links and systems found in enterprises, cyber-crime would only cause damage if the perpetrator found and hit the bullseye. Now, these malicious hackers have a much bigger target to aim for, and as long as they hit the board, they can cause damage.

In the UK, cyber-crime increased drastically last year, with a 31% increase seen between May and June (the peak period of the pandemic). In addition to this, 46% of businesses have identified breaches or attacks in 2020, according to the ‘Cyber Security Breaches Survey: 2020.’

London has been hit the hardest by this increase in attacks, with an estimated loss of £308,338 per 100,000 companies.

COMBATTING THE RISE IN CYBER-CRIME FROM HOME

Because remote working has created the need for traditional security strategies to adapt quickly, businesses must now look at technologies that help the new distributed business world. In this new landscape, understanding where the new vulnerabilities lie, investing in appropriate technology as well as updating policies and procedures, are vital.

EDR Solutions

These days, a business’s endpoints are the main target for cyber-criminals. As the workforce becomes more mobile and distributed, the protections afforded by your Next-Gen Firewall (NGFW) and traditional in-house security solutions can be lost.

EDR works wherever the endpoints are, it provides enhanced monitoring of endpoints, and quicker response times. Most of the time, EDR security systems can detect a threat within a few minutes – some can do it in real time, and the quicker the response to a threat or cyber-attack, the less of an impact it will have on your business.

The reasons for an EDR security system are to:

  • Monitor and store forensic data that could indicate security incidents.
  • Contain or remove the incident/malware at the endpoint.
  • Investigate the security incident and analyse this data to identify threat patterns.
  • Reduce attack surface by locking down USB ports and prevent out of policy internet use
  • Most importantly, notify security personnel and provide remediation guidance.

Email Protection and Security Awareness Training

Research has shown that the majority of targeted cyber-attacks start with emails, and during the pandemic, as workers become mobile and kids work from home,  people let down their  defences increasing the risk of malicious emails being opened increases.

Wendi Whitemore, IBM Cyber VP, has witnessed a 6000% increase in COVID-related spam and phishing emails.

Because emails can be accessed from anywhere: your smartphone, a web browser on a family member’s or a friend’s computer, your personal computer, the risk is amplified because none of these devices have your company’s security systems in place.

Email security solutions provide protection from this threat by inspecting the email before it’s even delivered to you. In a nutshell, these systems:

  • Allow you to set up email filtering policies and custom firewall rules.
  • Have automated systems that learn to effectively identify and block spoofing/imposter attacks and fraud.
  • Scan links at click-time for phishing and malware.
So what?

Again, without having your NGFW, which often will inspect incoming emails, your remote employees are left vulnerable. By having such a centralised security system in place, the risk of a cyber-attack occurring through the medium of an email decreases.

The reality is that for many, working from home can bring with it distractions that wouldn’t exist in an office. As humans, we find it very easy for our attention to wander, and it’s during those times, malicious emails can strike, as the risk of human error increases.

Email security solutions often have the ability to run mock phishing campaigns. This not only allows you to test your remote workforce and highlight which people are more susceptible to an email attack, but also serve as a gentle reminder to them that the company takes cyber security seriously, even though staff are out of the office.

IN SUMMARY

All in all, COVID continues to challenge business in many ways Although remote working may have increased the likeliness of cyber-attacks, through education and the installation of the right security solutions, cyber-security postures can begin to strengthen again as we continue to tackle this pandemic.

Let us conclude with the sign-off that has come all too common over the past 10 months – “stay safe!”

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