The generation of digital innovations that allow people to work from home and make transactions online has been key to alleviating some of the challenges of the coronavirus. However, this digital shift has also increased the threat of cyberattacks, particularly in developing markets.
As lockdowns and curfews were started around the world to protect citizens from Covid-19, daily life moved online. In terms of work, many businesses utilized digital programs such as Skype and Zoom to enable employees to work remotely, while various e-learning initiatives were also set, enabling students at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels to continue their studies from home during the pandemic.
In Bahrain, for example, the Ministry of Education set up an online portal for students and teachers that was updated daily with thousands of lessons, sample exams, e-books, and other learning materials. Elsewhere, social distancing actions led to spikes in demand for e-commerce platforms and online delivery services.
Rising Cyber Threats
While the increased adoption of digital solutions has played a significant role in reducing the risk of catching the virus, as well as enabling people to continue to work and study, it has also increased cybersecurity challenges. The more people that are using digital platforms, the more weight is placed on existing cybersecurity controls, and the higher the chance of potential attacks.
This is particularly relevant for those working from home. While businesses often have cybersecurity protection installed in offices and on company computers, the same is not always true of employees working remotely. The shifts towards remote working have increased longstanding cybersecurity risks such as people accessing unsecured data without VPN software, and the physical and psychological stressors that often lead to employees bypassing controls and taking risky options to complete assigned tasks.
The same threats apply to financial platforms. With heightened activity and a notable increase in the value of money being transferred, many analysts believe there is an increased cyber threat on insecure platforms.
In August INTERPOL reported that it had seen a significant amount of COVID-19-related cyber threats, such as coronavirus-themed online scams and phishing emails impersonating government and health authorities, as well as malware targeting health care institutions.
While individuals and small businesses are a threat, larger companies have also become targets. In a statement issued in late April, the World Health Organisation said that it had experienced a five-fold rise in the number of cyberattacks since the outbreak of Covid-19, with the email addresses and passwords of thousands of people working on tasks in response to the virus being leaked online.
Digital solutions to digital challenges
In light of increased digital activity and the heightened cyber threat, companies and governments alike have been looking to increase their defenses. Given the scale of the threat, many governments or businesses in developing markets may lack the required expertise and resources to build adequate safeguards.
To overcome this, some in the industry have called for the development of regional cybersecurity resource centers, where multiple countries and/or bodies could pool knowledge to bolster protection. Advocates say that while such a development would add to, rather than supplant, existing cybersecurity structures, they could also be used to develop talent and drive innovation in the sector.
Source: Oxford Business Group