CYBER SECURITY IN THE TIME OF COVID - JUNE 3 2020
In the past three months our dependency on networked computer systems has soared to unprecedented levels. Apart from groceries, many of us now do most of our shopping online. We learn or teach online. We are diagnosed online. We go to the cinema online. Shouting at the kids to get off their phone is a thing of the past. In fact, the world is now so weird under Covid that during their virtual school classes you might find yourself shouting at them because they’re not staring at the screen.
This is just the start. We have experienced at first-hand how Covid-19 has turned the world upside down. But brace yourself. In the next two years, life will become almost unrecognisable as computer systems and robotics take over most aspects of our everyday lives. Say goodbye to the office and quite possibly your job. Forget the cinema. If you fall sick and require surgery, prepare to be diagnosed on Zoom and then operated on by a robot.
The bad news is the surge of online activity during lockdown has multiplied the opportunities for the ever growing cyber criminal fraternity. Criminals are human beings after all and like the rest of us they now have more time on their hands to get creative during lockdown. According to the National Crime Agency within the first two weeks alone, they identified 80,000 fraudulent Covid-19 websites, selling everything from phantom PPE to snake-oil remedies.
Office computers are generally well protected by the employers’ IT and cyber security departments. But at home, working on their laptops from their kitchen table, people are far more vulnerable. ‘Everyone’s using dodgy home routers, sharing with family members who maybe bringing in computer viruses with illegal downloads,’ says Citizen Lab’s Ron Deibert. This is putting a huge strain on IT and cyber security engineers as they now spend much of their time instructing people how to turn the sound on their video conferencing app. ‘It is a perfect storm of insecurity,’ Deibert concluded.
The lesson from all this is crystal clear. If you’ve never taken computer security seriously, make time during the lockdown to get up to speed and quickly. Crime tends to be a first mover, sussing out new opportunities whenever a crisis like Covid-19 arises. They are very entrepreneurial. If a crime can go online, it’s usually safe to assume it’s already there and scanning for victims.