How Hackers Are Using the Coronavirus to Target Work From Home Employees


Exploiting the chaos surrounding COVID-19, bad characters are especially targeting remote workers. Discover their tactics and how IT support thwarts them. 

As the coronavirus continues its menacing march across the globe, companies are rapidly shifting to remote work. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are capitalizing on the chaos to target unsuspecting WFH employees adjusting to a new normal. Having an understanding of these bad actors' strategies can help you keep two steps ahead of them.

Cincinnati IT consulting specialist James Forbis with 4BIS.COM shares how hackers are going after your data.

Phishing Scams

This is probably the most popular tactic employed by spam-savvy characters who use emails and texts to get unsuspecting workers to click a link that opens the door to malware and other threats. Once these invaders take hold, cybercriminals can easily access employer network data. To entice people to click the links, hackers create messages that appear to contain information about the coronavirus. Employees should be on the lookout for emails about COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Not only are they red flags; they are also prime sources of fake news.

Suspicious Software

Another strategy that's been devised by cybercriminals allows them to install software that doesn't deliver as promised. For instance, scammers exploiting the COVID-19 crisis have been advertising software that tracks the spread of the virus, when in reality it masks malware that hijacks your passwords.

Social Engineering

While this type of attack is frequently committed against public-sector entities, it can happen to SMBs, too. Social engineering occurs when bad characters call the department of a company or organization, claiming to be from another department within it. The idea is to pretend to be affiliated with a particular business or organization with the goal of convincing admins to grant them access.

Hackers also like to impersonate government agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security. They communicate with workers through calls or text messages. While they may go after individuals' personal information, their primary aim is to breach corporate networks.

Ransomware Attacks

Other pandemic-themed attacks involve using ransomware that puts your hard drive on lockdown. The perpetrators then demand payment to unlock it.

Well-aware that many remote workers are still getting used to new policies and technologies, cybercriminals are exploiting employees looking for the VPN software they need to work from home. When it doesn't come from a trusted source, this software is likely to infect a computer with malware. Similarly, security experts recently uncovered an app that touts "Ways to Get Rid of the Coronavirus" but steals banking information instead.

Protecting Your Network When Employees Are Working Remotely

Working from home exposes your network to more vulnerabilities than you would typically find at the office. Using personal devices, logging in on public wi-fi, and not having the latest firewalls and anti-virus software are just a few of the factors that increase the likelihood of data breaches. Employers need to educate their teams about how to take precautions, especially as the coronavirus leads cybercriminals to step up their attacks. Remind your staff to:

  • Avoid opening unsolicited emails, especially if they're about the coronavirus and contain suspicious attachments and links
  • Create strong passwords and use 2FA to verify their identity when logging in
  • Hover over email links before clicking to make sure they are coming from a trusted source
  • Access sensitive data only via a private network
  • Report suspicious activity

Furthermore, it's critical for employers to be aware of all the devices connected to their networks. In an era of smart technology, this may go beyond smartphones and tablets to possibly include TVs and appliances, too. Businesses should also ensure they're using the latest software patches and security configurations.

Another way to keep your entire network secure is to partner with an IT company to ensure you're doing everything possible to protect sensitive data. Tech experts can perform a risk assessment to identify vulnerabilities in your system. Managed IT services also monitor your network around-the-clock, ensure it's protected with the latest firewalls and anti-virus software and provide solutions that enable your staff to navigate the Work For Home transition with minimal stress.

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