As of early March 2020, the World Health Organisation has officially declared the outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus, Covid-19, to be a global health emergency. At least 184 countries have reported cases of the virus, with more than 1,431,706 cases confirmed worldwide at the time of writing. Within the UK, new government rules have placed strict limitations on all non-essential travel, prompting countless businesses to remove as much business as possible from the office and, instead, asking their workforces to conduct business from the safety of their own homes.
Much effort has been made to mitigate the disruption to business-as-usual, and great swathes of the British workforce have managed a smooth transition into this new way of life. Had a global health crisis of these proportions occurred thirty years ago, the consequences would have been far greater — both for workers, and for entire industries.
While we are very lucky to be living and working in a digital age, which allows for round-the-clock access and communication, it unfortunately leaves many people vulnerable to the dangers of insufficient online security.
As has always been the case, cybercriminals are opportunistic, and highly skilled at spotting weaknesses within a company’s data security. Now more than ever, however, they are able to take advantage of a new, sharp rise in unsecured endpoints and home WiFi networks. Similarly, a new wave of coronavirus scams, designed to take advantage of the public’s fear, are already beginning to emerge; phishing, and emails containing malware, are making the rounds in an attempt to exploit a global tragedy, and gain access to sensitive data.
Read more about creating a secure remote workplace during the current Covid-19 crisis.
Use a Virtual Private Network
The use of a VPN establishes a secure connection between separate networks via the internet. It is an integral part of any business’s managed IT services, as it secures all communication between your employees’ devices and the network server, overcoming one of the major IT security threats of a decentralised workplace. Even if their home networks are not secure, sensitive data and communication can remain private — wherever they are working from.
Many of us would not expect a global crisis to prompt a sharp rise in attempted cyber attacks. What’s more, concerns over the spread of Covid-19 could encourage employees to fall victim to emails, apps and links purporting to be sent from trustworthy sources, such as the WHO and NHS.
Keeping all employees up-to-date on the latest threats to IT security is essential, and more so than ever during a time of such unease and disruption.
Maintain Endpoint Security
Laptops and mobile devices are extremely vulnerable endpoints, and while the recent trend of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has helped many businesses to increase their IT security for these endpoints, we must remain every vigilant of these weaknesses — particularly during a time when unprecedented numbers of employees are known to be working outside the office.
Your managed IT services will be able to help keep endpoints secure, from using end-to-end encryption, ensuring that antivirus and malware protection are always up to the task to the use of Endpoint management systems to ringfence your data wherever it is being used.
Passwords are surprisingly easy for cybercriminals to steal, and entrusting data security to a single password is incredibly risky for any individual or business. Multi-factor authentication is the practice of creating additional layers of security, such as one-time passcodes generated by a smartphone application, or facial or fingerprint recognition.
Enforcing multi-factor authentication on all devices can, according to Microsoft, block over 99.9% of all account compromise attacks.
Maintain Constant Vigilance
Cyber threats are constantly evolving, and we can be certain that malicious attacks will adapt to get around new security solutions introduced in the wake of the UK lockdown and work from home movement. From human error to weaknesses in the network, monitoring your data security is paramount to business continuity during these difficult times.
Do not rely on outdated break-fix approaches taken by traditional IT support. Your managed IT services should adopt a proactive approach to all matters of IT security, anticipating threats and weaknesses before they have an opportunity to cause issues and disrupt business.
We are lucky to be facing this crisis at a time when remote working is readily available to so many employees; it ensures that many industries across the UK can continue to function. That said, we must take a realistic approach to the dangers of decentralised working, and approach this new way of life with the right knowledge and preparedness to succeed, in spite of this worldwide challenge.