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Coronavirus and the increase of cybersecurity risks

ransomware, cyber crime, malware

Three things are certain on this earth: the first is death, the second is taxes and the third is that the modern workplace cannot survive without technology. Technology has normally been referred to as a drain on resources by high ranking officials however, it is now the driving force that is supporting the economy, if not saving it.

The emergence of the deadly coronavirus has resulted in many offices across the UK having to be closed to reduce the spread of the disease. As a result, many businesses have had no choice but to turn to video conferencing tools and the cloud to keep operations running. Video conferencing tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, CiscoWebEx amongst others have allowed employees to continue their work and stay connected. In addition, Microsoft Remote Desktop Services or public cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform have allowed CEOs and Directors to keep running their companies. Some businesses across the globe will have had some form of digital strategy to cope in a crisis, but the truth is many more businesses were not adequately prepared for something like this and will see their businesses close permanently

Simply put, video conferencing and cloud technology have not only saved certain parts of the economy, but it will also change the way we all work. I don’t believe this will signal the end of the 9 – 5 or 9:30 – 5:30 fixed work structure, but I do think that some firms will move away from the standard 5 days a week office work to something where perhaps employees will work 2 days in the office and three days at home. The benefits of working some days at home are the fact that it boosts productivity, motivation and is good for mental health. Some even go as far as to state that it makes workers less likely to quit when working from home.

However, despite the benefits of working from home, there are still negatives that need to be considered, such as cybersecurity matters. When one is in their home environment they are more comfortable, which in turn can lead to being lax and less vigilant when coming across a cybersecurity threat such as a phishing email and clicking on a malicious link.

Most of the training employees take in the office is likely to be thrown out the window because you are in a lax environment where you are prone to make mistakes. You could be watching a film on your mobile at the same time while you are working, then something interesting happens that diverts your attention. You then make a mistake that puts your company at risk. Going forward it will be beneficial for companies to let users know that the cybersecurity training that was taken in the office still applies at home, and highlight that cyber risks are higher due to the lax home working environment.

Furthermore, there is the issue of physical security. Small businesses with around 100 employees may want to save costs and encourage employees to use their own personal laptops. The problem with letting your employees use personal laptops is because quite a few laptops may be infected with malware and they could be a part of a botnet. Malware such as keyloggers that capture what you type or spyware that monitors your activity and steals sensitive information, would ultimately be a disaster and put the company in serious risk. Ransomware is the last thing anyone would want to happen to their business.

You may train your employees to apply the cybersecurity training taken in the office to their personal lives as businesses have done so. Yet, what if some employees share their personal laptops with other members of their family, who lack very basic security knowledge and therefore have poor judgement within that area. Any of them could be visiting malicious websites, clicking links within phishing emails that download malware etc. Businesses should also have scenarios like this in mind and come up with solutions to mitigate such risks. 

All in all video conferencing and cloud technology are the engines keeping businesses running, and are here to stay for a very long time. Both will not only play a big part in our lives, but will take companies such as Amazon and Microsoft to the next level. When the coronavirus is a thing of the past, businesses who are going to implement working from home schemes permanently must also consider the cyber risks of doing so.

By Michael Ogunjimi

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