Coronavirus-Forced Remote Work Strains Cybersecurity, Networks

As COVID-19 spreads across the world, businesses are enforcing work from home policies to ensure the safety of their people. They are offering employees internet technologies and telecommunications resources to help them complete projects and communicate with colleagues. 


Cybercriminals are capitalizing on the increased internet and telecommunications traffic by collecting personal user information through attacks and online scams. The U.S. Health and Human Services Department, and coronavirus statistics website have already been targeted, according to World Economic Forum.


Telecommunications and mobile network operators and internet providers are anticipating a spike in demand from remote workers and users, turning to them for social interactions--including video calls, social media posts, and chat forums--emergency services communications, schooling, and critical information on the pandemic. 


Operators and providers will be expected to absorb the increase in demand with little or no preparation time, testing their resources and capabilities. Streaming media will experience a sharp increase in demand, for both news and entertainment purposes. 


This might be a good time to review training materials, to make sure learnings on remote work, cybersecurity, and use of personal devices are up to date, and ready to be deployed on mobile platforms, so people can access from their remote locations. It’s also smart to prepare some messaging about ethics and acting with integrity, even when working from home.


Demand increases aren’t the only obstacle operators face, according to an article in the Hill. As remote work and online schooling offer more flexible schedules, networks should prepare for traffic increases that don’t follow regular demand cycles. Irregular usage could affect bandwidth and availability for all users. In a worst-case scenario, a broad-based cyberattack on overloaded networks could cause infrastructure failures, and leave communities or cities offline. 


People need to be wary of cyber scams. During a crisis, individuals may be more susceptible to clicking a dangerous link or sharing data with untrustworthy parties. It is estimated 98% of cyberattacks use social engineering methods to access passwords, networks, and data. During an uncertain time, it may be easier to exploit users and capitalize on fear, especially since more time online correlates with riskier online behavior. Internet users may be susceptible to obscure websites, pirated shows, requests for credit card information, or the installation of false applications.


World Economic Forum has three suggestions for employees to stay safe online at home. Review digital “hygiene” habits, such as using a complex router password and a reliable VPN for internet access and keeping system firewalls active. Remain extra vigilant on verification; for example, don’t click links in emails, verify the source of every URL when signing up for new services, be careful when installing software and giving out personal information. Finally, stay on top of official system software and application updates.


Companies, on top of everything else it takes to keep business running during this pandemic, should be doing their best to teach employees how to safely work remotely.

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