Cybercriminals Have Adapted to the Pandemic. Have You?

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new reality with it; telecommuting is at its peak, and an unprecedented amount of (mis)information is circulating on the Internet. Cybercriminals have taken advantage of this to ramp up their activities. Thus, it’s best to understand the cybercriminal landscape in the current pandemic, the most common attacks, and how to protect your organization. 

Cybersecurity in the Pre-Covid Era

Even before the COVID-9 pandemic hit, cybercrime was a persistent transnational threat. The omnipresent nature of technology and the increasing rate of Internet connectivity made cybercrime a high-reward, low-risk venture for criminals. According to a study by Accenture, the economic value at risk from global cybercrime was about $5.2 trillion before the pandemic. Given that attackers have ramped up their activities over the past year and a half, the value of cybercrime has undoubtedly risen.

COVID-19 and Cybercrime

The Coronavirus pandemic has created novel challenges, especially for small and medium enterprises as they shift to an operating model where remote working is normal. Companies have been forced to accelerate their digital transformation, but many don’t know how to provide a “cyber-secure” remote-working environment. 

Why Attackers Target SMEs

Pre-COVID, most SMEs didn’t have the same level of security as what large corporations have. Thus, they faced a myriad of threats from cybercriminals, which worsened during the pandemic. One of the reasons attackers are increasingly targeting small and medium-sized enterprises is that most have BYOD policies. Hence, employees are allowed to use their personal gadgets to access corporate data. 

Working remotely does not guarantee the same level of security as working from the office. So users are left even more exposed to cyberattacks. Despite the heavy reliance on the Internet, working remotely means organizations have implemented less stringent cybersecurity measures, unlike what would be in place in an office environment. As a result, cybercriminals have an unprecedented number of potential victims to target. 

Thanks to COVID-19, the cyber threat landscape has become even more diverse. For instance, malicious employees working remotely with fewer technical controls and less supervision can easily get tempted to perpetrate fraud and other criminal activities. Likewise, threat actors recognize that the cybersecurity measures that most companies have aren’t “fit for purpose” or robust enough to thwart attacks. 

Remote working and the weaker cybersecurity measures also allow junior attackers to test out their strategies on organizations and sharpen their skills. With SMEs having weaker cybersecurity measures than larger corporations, they are more likely to get breached. An excellent example is a cyberattack that hit Florida-based IT company Kaseya. Investigations revealed that the attackers targeted the company’s employees to intrude on the network. 

More people are staying at home and relying on the Internet for daily activities such as education, leisure, and work. Thus, the avenues that cybercriminals use to exploit vulnerabilities have multiplied. Social media use has also spiked since the start of the pandemic. These changes have created a huge pool of businesses and individuals. 

Ransomware Attacks and COVID-19

There has been a sharp increase in ransomware attacks during the pandemic. Cybercriminals use tested tactics such as social engineering to target their victims. According to a report by Verizon, the average cost of data breaches rose to $21,659 per incident, with most breaches costing between $800 and $650,000. However, 5% of cyberattacks during the pandemic cost businesses over $1 million.  

A significant number of data breaches entailed leveraging human error rather than exploiting vulnerabilities in computer code. Indeed, specific techniques vary by industry. But over 60% of breaches involve schemes that attempt to swipe login credentials, including phishing schemes. 

Protecting Your Organization Against Evolving Threats from Cybercriminals

Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the threat environment and given attackers more opportunities to hit you, one question remains, how have you adapted? Well, if your business operates in the legal, medical, or manufacturing fields, engaging experts in your IT operations is a surefire way to keep cybercriminals at bay. 

Hiring managed services providers (MSPs) in particular can help to shore up your cybersecurity defenses. These professionals will help you to implement managed cybersecurity strategies for preventing attacks, including: 

Installing and Monitoring Firewalls

A network firewall is a critical cybersecurity component that protects your data. It’s best to make your firewall monitoring and management strategy comprehensive and robust. However, network firewall configuration may be challenging even to your in-house IT team. It entails striking a balance between maintaining performance speed for your users and delivering optimal security. 

With an MSP, it will be easier to install and monitor network firewalls while protecting yourself and your data from cybersecurity threats and malware that can compromise confidential data. These professionals also help to protect your data from existing and future threats using the following strategies: 

  • Monitoring access and restricting traffic
  • Optimizing firewall rules to deliver an appropriate level of protection
  • Updating your organization’s firewall software
  • Automating firewall updates

The COVID-19 pandemic has proved that cyberattacks evolve with time. Hence, a firewall you had two years ago may not be the ideal security solution for protecting your data and clients. When you have your firewall installed and monitored by an MSP, you’ll have a full security stack that keeps you safe from attackers.

Businesswoman working with an MSP to help manage her company's data security against threats from cybercriminals.

Permission Management and Auditing

A reliable MSP will provide an Identity and Access Management (IAM) capability. This allows you to audit and monitor access to your organization’s confidential data at all times. The IAM capability also enables you to create, view, and modify users and roles or assign and remove users’ administrative rights as needed. 

When it comes to permission auditing, an MSP will constantly provide you with logs documenting how users access your network based on their roles and privileges and how the MSP documents its response and detection activities. Thus, you’ll be able to study logs that capture activities on routers, endpoints, IoT devices, application events, and even proxies. 

Network Monitoring for Threats

Managing network performance isn’t always a key strength of most IT administrators. Even so, there’s no better way to quickly identify and address threats than monitoring your network. Hiring an MSP allows you to have total visibility of your network and any threats therein. Thus, you can easily keep the threats at bay and prevent potential attacks. 

A crucial component of managed cybersecurity by MSPs is data verification. In recent years, one of the notable attack vectors that cybercriminals use entails altering backup files and archives. MSPs can help you to authenticate files and prove they are original and untampered. For this reason, it’s best to choose an SMP with data verification and integrity functionality. In doing so, it will be easy for you to prove both point-in-time integrity and the current authenticity of your data when monitoring your network. 

MSPs also provide you with filtering and blocking capabilities to safeguard your data. Most cyber-attacks during the pandemic resulted from human error. So, an easy way to protect your organization from attackers is by controlling how users can accidentally undermine your cybersecurity posture. 

Typically, they do this by unknowingly opening unknown email attachments or visiting malware-spreading sites. A good MSP platform allows you to blacklist apps containing insecure protocols, thus giving you greater control over the devices that can access your organization’s critical data and infrastructure. 

Managed Patching and Updates

Patch management is something few IT guys love to do. Thus, it’s no surprise that many see it as an expensive inconvenience that can potentially introduce issues. Even so, your business needs to adopt patch management and updating strategies to keep attackers at bay. An easy way to do so is by outsourcing the task to MSPs. 

Attackers are increasingly exploiting the security vulnerabilities on organizations’ networks. So keeping your workstations, routers, and servers stable, secure, and updated is more crucial than ever. An advantage of working with MSPs is that they undertake patch management remotely. This helps to maintain capability and efficiency while applying the best security practices. 

It’s best to remember that unpatched software and devices are a magnet for malware. Typically, hackers target SMEs with unpatched IT systems, knowing too well that they’re more likely to succeed. With an MSP, it’s easy to apply security patches promptly, thus reducing the risk of security breaches and the problems that come with it. 

Incident Management and Response

Your organization should react to potential data breaches quickly and orderly. There should be a streamlined investigative strategy for determining whether a breach has occurred, its source, and recommendations for improving systems and practices. An MSP helps your organization to achieve the following: 

  • Develop an incident response plan
  • Limit damages
  • Pinpoint and maintain a proper chain of evidence
  • Investigate the potential cause of the breach
  • Plan, train staff, and recover data

Hiring an MSP can be a game-changer as far as preventing cyber-attacks is concerned. With managed services from reputable experts, even the smallest businesses can access qualified IT professionals without the hard work of recruiting and onboarding them. 

If you’re looking for a reliable managed cybersecurity services provider in Jacksonville, FL, do not hesitate to contact NetTech Consultants. We look forward to offering you top-notch cloud solutions that stabilize operations while keeping cybercriminals at bay. 

The NetTech Content Team

NetTech Consultants is a Jacksonville based managed IT services provider that serves SMBs and organizations in Southeast Georgia and Northeast Florida. NetTech publishes content discussing information technology and cybersecurity concepts and trends in a business context.