Grappling with cybersecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic

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The coronavirus pandemic is giving cybercriminals a perfect chance to strike.

The coronavirus is changing life as we know it. One of the biggest changes for most people is an even greater reliance on technology than before the pandemic began. Around the world, people are using technology to work from home, connect with loved ones, and stay informed.

Largely, the Big Tech world has stepped up in a moment of great need. Companies are finding creative ways to deal with increased traffic all while granting consumers free access to software to get through quarantine.

Unfortunately, the increased use of technology isn’t all sunshine. With more people online than ever, cybercriminals are taking advantage. From low-risk events like Zoom-bombings to huge problems like ransomware attacks on the healthcare system, cybercrime is booming because of the coronavirus pandemic. Although grappling with this reality isn’t easy, it’s necessary to acknowledge the facts to stay prepared and better address the problem.

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More Usage Means More Exposure

Around the world Internet service providers (ISPs) and tech companies alike are documenting record numbers of users. Facebook recently called the spike in usage that it’s seeing “unprecedented.”

In Europe, an increased number of consumers streaming content from home forced services like Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon to decrease the quality of their video to try and conserve bandwidth.

In the same way that driving more often puts you at greater risk for getting into an accident, spending more time on the Internet is correlated with a greater risk of being exposed to cybercrime. Just because surfing the web is digital, the danger is still real.

As users stay at home surfing the Internet, risky behaviors often increase. A bored individual may click on a fake link for a “free” trial, inadvertently giving up their personal info to a cybercriminal. Those getting accustomed to new software could easily click on the wrong link to download it and accidentally install malware on their machine.

Having more users online is a golden opportunity for cybercriminals. Since there are now more chances to lure in an unsuspecting victim, cybercrime has increased dramatically in the past few months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Higher Stakes

Saying that the world depends on technology is certainly an understatement. Despite the fact that there is a global health crisis in progress, life is still pretty comfortable for most. It’s easy to curl up under a blanket and binge watch Netflix. Likewise, continuing to get a paycheck by logging in for a Zoom meeting every day is an easy trade-off.

On a normal day, a cyberattack that cuts off an individual or an organization’s ability to communicate digitally is a nuisance. Such an event can also be very costly.

Due to the state of today’s world, however, any form of cyberattack that targets communications or data could have deadly, far-reaching effects.

Perhaps more concerning is the healthcare system. Its infrastructure is already under a tremendous deal of strain as providers work with few supplies and a surge of patients. Cybersecurity experts have long warned that the healthcare world is a prime target for digital crime. Hospitals rely on technology to power lifesaving devices, monitor patients, and keep records. Anything that disrupts this flow would be catastrophic.

Already, cybercriminals have tried to exploit the fragile healthcare system in the U.S. Attacks were launched on both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the coronavirus statistics site Worldometers.info.

In the days to come, guarding against these heinous attacks will be a top priority for the cybersecurity world.

Preying on Fear

Although cybercrime happens largely online, it almost always relies on human weaknesses. Whether that means a person clicks on a malicious link or a fearful user gives in to a ransomware demand, fear and uncertainty fuel the success of cybercrime.

In the midst of a global pandemic, there is plenty of fear and uncertainty going around. The world’s state of heightened stress is a perfect crack for cybercriminals to exploit.

Users who are stressed aren’t thinking clearly. Seeking out information about the coronavirus can particularly be anxiety-provoking. Hackers realize this.

Accordingly, it didn’t take long for cybercriminals to launch a global attack against people searching for data about the spread of COVID-19. They concealed malware in a useful map that resembled one hosted by Johns Hopkins University. A convincing interface cleverly hid the fact that anything suspicious might be going on.

However, when users download the software it infects their computer and steals their information.

In the days to come, this sort of attack will become more common. Hackers will stop at nothing to steal information—even if that means preying on the fears of concerned individuals in the midst of a pandemic.

How to Stay Safe

With the coronavirus spreading rapidly, many people are simply concerned with how to stay healthy. That’s understandable. Moreover, it should be the top priority. Practicing good social distancing and not leaving the house whenever possible are great ways to stop the spread of the virus.

However, doing so leaves people with lots of time on their hands. This is a perfect opportunity to get your cybersecurity in line.

The most basic thing to do is to ensure that you have antivirus software installed on your machine. If you don’t, check out The Burn-In’s guide to the best free antivirus programs you can download right now.

Next, ensure that your passwords are unique across every site and contain a strong combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Investing in a password manager could be a smart idea if you have a few dollars to spare.

As you sign up for new services and free trials to stay entertained, it’s also important to remain extra vigilant. Only click on URLs from sources that you trust and avoid downloading software unless you know it is the original version from the publisher’s website.

Although curbing the spread of the coronavirus is the priority, practicing good cybersecurity is more important now than ever. As the world battles this pandemic, staying safe online is something that everyone can work on.

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