Entire societies have been affected by health concerns and sweeping policy changes due to the COVID pandemic. For many across the world, the very idea of day-to-day life has changed. Putting aside the obvious world health implications of a global pandemic, there has been a massive effect on the way organizations and their staff work.
While many legitimate businesses struggled to adapt to the changes, cybercriminals and bad actors saw the pandemic as a perfect opportunity to thrive. Mass confusion, changes to patterns of behavior, increased reliance on remote workers, and other factors made COVID-19 a boon for hackers.
The numbers speak for themselves. Cybercrime reports rose nearly 70% in the US compared to 2019, while the UK saw a 31% increase over the past year. What we’re seeing is not just a spike in activity, but an increase in efficacy and damage. (You’ve probably noticed that some of the most newsworthy cyberattacks and data breaches in history came during the pandemic.)
The mass migration of workers from secure on-site networks to their own home offices is largely behind this wave of cybercrime. Whereas organizations once had tighter control over their networks and data, remote workers make unsecured devices and networks the norm. Remote work has been largely successful in terms of keeping the economy moving, but this trend made businesses extremely vulnerable.
The changes we’re seeing won’t revert to a “state of normal” as we once knew it, and the cybersecurity landscape will likely increase in danger for years to come. While something as complex as information security is always unpredictable to some degree, we are expecting a few trends to carry on for some time:
- Home offices and personal WiFi networks will continue to serve as prime targets. Remote workers are far more likely to use unsecured devices and unpatched software, making them a potential gateway into valuable corporate or government networks.
- Concerns over public health, vaccinations, and contact tracing will continue to make end-users susceptible to phishing campaigns and other forms of social engineering.
- Some organizations using the cloud or hybrid networks will continue to be at greater risk. As their data spreads across multiple locations, its risk profile increases. Some hybrid and cloud solutions are sufficiently secured, but others still carry vulnerabilities and risk. For example, many cloud solutions (particularly Software-as-a-Service apps) use APIs that are vulnerable to attack and can leave data-in-motion unprotected.
- Patching and security updates have become more important than ever. Cybercriminals have become quite good at finding and sharing vulnerabilities in enterprise software, making every patch announcement a race against time.
On top of this, many organizations had to make rushed changes to their IT strategy. These changes often included stopgap measures that need to be replaced with more secure and permanent solutions.
Looking at businesses in the United States, there’s a definite shift in focus toward cyber defense, bolstering IT architectures, documenting cybersecurity controls, and refining business processes to address cyber risk concerns. IT policy often lags behind reality, but the past couple of years have shown us all that there is very little margin of error when it comes to information security in 2022.