How to Protect Your Organization from Cybersecurity Attacks During COVID-19

It’s important to remember when planning to keep your organization safe from cyberattacks that it’s not just your wellbeing that’s at risk—you likely have lots of juicy customer information that attackers would love to get their hands on. If this happens, you risk losing your hard-earned company reputation as well as a large percentage of your customer base. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations are finding themselves being exploited by hackers and cybersecurity attackers.

What is a Cybersecurity Attack?

A cybersecurity attack, or a cyberattack, is any attack launched from one or more computers against another computer or network of computers.

Cyberattacks can be meant to disable a target computer or network and will often either force that computer or network offline or attack it for the purpose of accessing a computer or network’s sensitive data.

Common Cybersecurity Attacks and How to Prevent Them

It’s important to be aware of the different types of attacks that are common in today’s increasingly digital world. Most organizations have some amount of information that attackers may wish to gain access to for personal gain.

  • Malware – This is a malicious software that is developed to breach information systems by finding and exploiting network vulnerabilities. Malware can gain access when users click disguised links and/or attachments that install harmful software on the computer. Malware can block access to the network or parts of the network to which a computer belongs, install more malware, copy data and transmit it elsewhere, and disrupt the system so it becomes useless. There are different types of malware that you should be aware of:
  • Spyware – This is a program that collects information about users in secret. It can also download and install malicious software from the internet
    • Ransomware – This is a type of software that blocks access to the victim’s data and holds it ransom, threatening to delete or spread the information if the ransom is not paid
    • Viruses – These will be attached to applications and when the application is opened will execute instructions to transfer control of the application away from the user. The virus will then replicate and attach itself to other code in the system
    • Worms – These are self-contained programs that spread across computers and networks

To prevent malware attacks, avoid clicking suspicious links and log out of programs when you’re done using them. It’s a good idea to invest in a good anti-virus software as well.

  • Phishing – A social engineering attack in which fraudulent communications come through that appear to be from a trusted source. Phishing often comes through email and includes attempts to steal sensitive information or trick people into installing malware programs.

To prevent phishing attacks, use common sense when opening emails or clicking on links. You can even hover your cursor over the link to analyze the URL if need be. If it looks suspicious, don’t click it.

  • Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) Attack – An attacker intercepts messages between two parties and relays this information to another individual or set of individuals. This is a common method in which sensitive information is stolen from organizations.

To prevent MITM attacks, use encryption and digital certification where possible to protect sensitive information.

  • Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Attack – Attacks are made on an organization’s central server with simultaneous data requests. This stops the server from being able to fulfill legitimate requests. In this case, the criminal attackers can extort the victim for money and/or information, holding the functioning of their system hostage until demands are met.

These types of attacks can often come from competitors just to get the system offline and prevent normal business functioning. Firewalls and filtering are useful in preventing DDoS attacks.

  • Structured Query Language (SQL) Injection – SQL is designed to manage data in relational database management systems. Criminal hackers can inject code into the server using SQL, allowing the server to reveal sensitive information that would not otherwise be accessible.

To prevent these types of attacks, make sure your database requires permissions to access the database.

  • Drive-By Download Attack – Hackers look for insecure websites and plant malicious malware by copying code into one of the pages. This code could either install malware onto the computers of those who visit the website, or it could redirect the victim to a site controlled by the hackers.

Keep browsers, apps and operating systems up to date to prevent this type of attack.

  • Password Attack – Gaining passwords can involve either guessing at a person’s password or gaining access to a computer/network and copying encrypted files that contain passwords to find results.

Implement an account lock-out service that will lock your accounts after a few incorrect password attempts to keep yourself safe from password attacks.

How Coronavirus Poses a Threat to Your Organization’s Security

While news about the coronavirus pandemic has focused on medical details, an increasing problem stemming from the pandemic is that hackers are taking advantage of turbulent times to launch cyberattacks.

Hackers have been using the disruptions in business caused by the coronavirus to target individuals and steal personal information by posing as trustworthy individuals or organizations, such as phishing emails that appear to come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Attacks range from fraudulent offers of high-demand products, such as hand sanitizers and face masks, to more serious attacks through malware.

When it comes to malware, the transition to widespread work from home conditions has provided hackers with opportunities to spread malicious programs and viruses. The home networks of remote workers tend to be far less secure than the networks at their offices, opening up potential for attackers to access sensitive information more easily. This is a problem because many organizations did not have time to prepare security measures for their employees as the stay-at-home mandates happened so rapidly.

It’s more important now than ever to stay vigilant against attacks. Many attackers are using phishing techniques and malware to launch their attacks and individuals working from home are more vulnerable. Gmail revealed that it has blocked millions of COVID-19 related phishing and malware emails as well as daily spam messages containing dubious information about the coronavirus.

General Steps You Should Be Taking to Protect Your Organization

While there are specific things you can do to protect your organization from specific attacks, experts recommend using general blanket protections as well. The first step to being protected is always to know what you’re protecting yourself from. Researching your industry and the common types of attacks other organizations face will help you know where to start. In the meantime, do these things to arm yourself against attacks:

  • Keep firewalls turned on – A firewall can protect your computer from attackers by creating a barrier between an untrusted network and a trusted network
  • Install antivirus software and keep it updated – It’s a good idea to invest in antivirus software to prevent malicious programs from attaching to your computer. Furthermore, as the types of attacks are always changing, it’s important to keep your antivirus software up-to-date
  • Install antispyware software and keep it updated – Prevent spyware from secretly stealing your sensitive information by keeping antispyware software updated on your computer
  • Keep your operating system and applications up to date – Computers are more vulnerable to attacks when their operating systems and apps are older
  • Be mindful of what you’re downloading – Only click trusted links and download trusted programs from the company website
  • Turn off your computer when not in use – Computers are susceptible to attacks even when you’re not using them. Turn them off to reduce the risk of an attack
  • Always know who you’re communicating with – Don’t reveal any sensitive information online until the other user has verified their identity through an authentication process

Next Steps

If there’s even the slightest chance your digital information could be vulnerable to an attack, it’s important to act now to protect loss of data, customer trust and overall reputation. KnowledgeCity’s course, “Introduction to Cybersecurity” will explain common types of attacks and how to be prepared for the potential cybersecurity attacks your organization could face. Remember, you can’t assume that cyberattackers might not find something valuable to steal from you. Take time now to arm yourself with pertinent and timely information about cyberattacks and how to prevent them with this course.

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