As the pandemic struck, the world had to adapt to remote working quickly, and so did cyber attackers. The pandemic, in some respects, has made the job of hackers a lot easier. Workers often used corporate registered devices when staff were based in offices, which came loaded with firewall protection and security. More so, with workers being together in one space, it was much harder to perform cyber attacks, as 50 computers, for example, could be on the same internet network. Now, as remote working seems to stay, employees have become much more spread out, perhaps using non-business laptops or networks, which has created a playground for cyber attackers. This is reflected in recent statistics regarding the sharp rise in cybercrime through the pandemic.
Phishing attacks have risen by over 10%, ransomware by 6%, and cases of identity misrepresentation have also skyrocketed since last year (Forbes, 2021). The average cost of security breaches has also shot up as cyber attackers target assets worth more money. Cyber-attacks have also become harder to track with the rise of cryptocurrencies. The unregulated nature of Bitcoin and other currencies means it is harder to track stolen funds and relocate them to their owner.
Combatting the growing cyber security threat should be high on the priority list of any business with remote staff, but it’s not easy. Businesses have faced disruption to usual processes such as regular training and advice sessions regarding cyber security, as these have not been able to go ahead or have been halted by COVID. More so, businesses have not been able to identify staff members who may be more vulnerable to security attacks, as that much-needed office time and training has been removed.
With staff members working in isolation, IT departments are taking weeks to identify issues, as staff are less likely to come forward with issues when working from home. Human error is also more common with working from home, as people are more likely to open email attachments or click on links filled with malware. One report conducted by Verizon found 85% of cyber attacks in companies working from home were caused by human error.
So how do businesses combat the growing threat of cyber-attacks? Whilst there is no one-size-fits-all answer, management can take a few different measures to educate and promote cyber security. Industry experts recommend gauging each employee's risk, looking at whether or not they regularly update their computer software, accept or reject cookies, or have a standard knowledge of cyber security.
These individual risk assessments should be conducted one-on-one to encourage learning and avoid vilifying employees for their lack of knowledge on the subject. Furthermore, all businesses should be investing in quality security software for their staff. Malware detection software should be in place on all company devices, even smartphones. Building a defence system across a business's computer network ensures there are no chinks in the armour if there is a risk of a cyber attack.