The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has affected the world in ways we never thought possible. Prior to the declaration of the disease as a global pandemic, it has already affected businesses across different continents of the world. Barely four months after the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus pandemic was confirmed, many businesses as well as the economy of many countries have shut down. The virus has brought most a lot of business and organizations to their knees.
In the wake of the devastating effect of COVOD-19 and the need to practice social distancing, many organizations have encouraged their staff to work from home. While this has helped to some extent, it has had its share of problems too. One of the biggest challenges businesses are facing now is rising cases of cyber-attacks.
COVID-19 Themed Malicious Cyber Activity in Australia
Just like in most places, cyber-attack in Australia is on the rise. Since early March, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch has reportedly received more than 100 complaints of scams about COVID-19. Since there are likely several unreported cases, the true extent of the increase in these attacks is likely to be much higher.
It is just unfortunate that cyber-criminals are targeting businesses more, even as the world fights a pandemic. In their true phishing style, these criminals are sending emails and text messages to businesses and individuals, redirecting them to malicious websites.
There are different identified patterns now, including SMS phishing campaign, phishing campaigns impersonating Australian post to steal personal information, phishing campaign pretending to be international health organizations, phishing emails containing malicious attachments, and COVID-19 relief payment scam. Some attacks are specifically designed for Australians who are working from home. In addition to exploiting their targets, the cyber actors use them as unsuspecting money-mules to transfer the proceeds of their crimes to untraceable accounts.
The extent of damages that can be caused by COVID-19 themed cyber attacks can be massive. It is imperative, therefore, that owners and managers of small and medium businesses take concrete measures to up their cyber security game and protect their businesses.
How Businesses Can Protect Themselves from Recent Cyber Attacks
While the online phishing landscape is changing gradually, business owners and managers can still protect their businesses from cybercriminals by adopting specific measures. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and accompanying cyber-attacks, Australian businesses can adopt the following measures to improve cyber security and implement a secure workplace:
Educate Employee about Best Practices
Depending on how you handle data in your organization, a security breach from one employee can put your business in jeopardy. You should start by giving your employees necessary cybersecurity information, and training them on how to avoid being hacked.
Install Reliable Antivirus Software
Every cyber-security system must have an up-to-date, reliable antivirus program. There should also be anti-malware software to keep your systems safe. It is a good practice to have all devices used by your employees installed with the very best antivirus software you can afford.
Keep All Devices and Software Updated
It is easier for cyber-criminals to infiltrate outdated devices and programs in your system. This is why it is essential that you keep all devices and software updated. Updates are not just released to improve performance but to address security issues too. Updating your programs doesn’t cost much, but negligence can be devastating.
Provide VPN for Employees
Connecting to networks in these trying times can be very dangerous since cyber-attacks against small businesses are on the rise. One of the best ways to help prevent malicious activities from networks and the internet is to use a VPN. You should provide VPN access to all employees, irrespective of where they are working from.
Install Encryption Software
Installing encryption software is one of the best ways to protect your data. This is especially needed if you deal with data pertaining to credit cards, bank accounts, social security numbers, and related financial information. With good encryption software, the data will be adequately protected and appear unreadable to cybercriminals even if they have access to it.
Use Multi-Factor Authentication
This is another wonderful way to protect your devices and accounts from cybercriminals. In addition to using strong passwords, including multi-factor authentication will make it almost impossible for cybercriminals to access any of your accounts.
Limit Access to Critical Data
Since it is a known fact that there has been heightened recent cyber-attacks in Australia and other places around the world, small and medium businesses will benefit from limiting access to their critical data. Since business activities are not even moving as smoothly as it used to be, fewer employees should have access to critical data until the volume of threat reduces.
Small and medium businesses have already suffered so much due to the devastating economic effect of COVID-19. The increasing rate of cyber-attack is another major problem that has the potential to send many out of business. It is essential, therefore, for Australian businesses to take proactive measures against cyber attacks. Training the employees to adopt best practices is the first place to start, and their devices must be up-to-date and adequately protected.