Business continuity during the COVID-19 lockdown is a big challenge. Firms are not just at risk of losing web connectivity and outages, but data security vulnerabilities and cybersecurity attacks from malicious attackers. There have seen many incidents of phishing, misinformation campaigns, and others work-from-home opportunities for hackers making their way around the internet.
With the lockdown extended around the world, employees continue to work remotely on their private networks, which is undoubtedly a threat to most Indian companies. According to a study by PwC, the number of cyberattacks on Indian companies has doubled in the past few months as cybercriminals use the disruption brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak to infiltrate corporate networks and steal data.
The CERT-In (The Computer Emergency Response Team of India) stated in its latest advisory to the internet users that, “Cybercriminals are exploiting the coronavirus pandemic outbreak as an opportunity to send phishing emails in the form of an ‘important update’ or ‘encouraging donations’, or trying to impersonate employees’ trustworthy organisations.”
According to the agency, the current global health situation has seen changes to the way people accomplish their regular job, with an increasing number working from home instead of the office. Cybercriminals are continually attempting to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and are now turning their attention to mobile devices to spread malware, including spyware and ransomware. The officials said that employees who are switching to remote working because of the coronavirus outbreak could create cybersecurity problems for the business and the employers.
“In the current context where the same version of confidential/sensitive data is spread across an organization and sits in various places- databases, cloud platforms, collaboration tools, file system, endpoints, e-mails, etc., it is getting very challenging for security professionals, security architects and security engineers to come up with a single solution to address all security gaps at various levels,” Visweswara Rao Sreemanthula, a Senior Manager – IT Security at Verizon told Analytics India Magazine.
In April, Indian IT giant Infosys beefed up its security to safeguard itself from potential cyber-attacks. And the firm has further planned to enhance security in 2020 by expanding and reskilling its team. Vishal Salvi, chief information security officer and head of cybersecurity at Infosys recently said, “Investment in cybersecurity controls are on the rise year-on-year, and that is because organizations are considering cybersecurity investment very strategic for their current and future business.” According to Salvi, the company is mainly focusing on reskilling its team in identity and access management, infrastructure security, security information, and event management, security orchestration, automation, and response.
The Security Plan
The sudden shift to a remote-work model means that employees are now combining personal technology with work networks, and this is contributing to an expanded attack surface. Many of these devices may also be older or unsecured, and this introduces serious new risks. All of this can be challenging for security teams who now have to manage this expanded and complex attack surface.
Remote working practices are in full swing, especially in these challenging times of COVID-19. Organizations are taking the best precautionary steps to support and protect employees during this global pandemic. Here, active traffic management is critical for application services to meet the new levels of demand and handle peak loads in traffic. Effective traffic management is also a key priority for organizations during this time. It is, therefore, critical for businesses to look at the various means by which they can address the complex security challenges, with the escalating threats prevailing due to remote working during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Network security, data availability, and protection have become a crucial priority for organizations for truly seamless business continuity. On ensuring network security and data traffic management at the time of COVID-19, we also talked with Sanjai Gangadharan, Regional Director, SAARC, A10 Networks who said, “Remote working is the need of the hour for organizations in India as social distancing amid lockdown becomes a priority in fighting the COVID-19 battle. Network protection from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks is a key concern of remote working for organizations.”
“Organizations should continually assess their networks for security vulnerabilities. This can prevent a range of problems such as unauthorized access to applications and identifying underlying software flaws that expose sensitive data. Vulnerability scanners can help identify these concerns, making it easier to understand if systems have critical risks that need to be addressed,” Adam Palmer, Chief Cybersecurity Strategist at Tenable told.
According to Adam, as a first step, it’s important to identify its information assets, having a baseline will help in knowing the width and depth of what has to be protected. Once determined, organizations need to work along with various stakeholders in designing controls which will help achieve the security business objectives.
Other experts and leaders in the security industry say that in order to respond to the cybersecurity complexities of remote working due to COVID-19, organizations must take a zero-trust approach to security. They must ensure that no user has access to data that they don’t depend on for their day-to-day functions. Companies must also ensure visibility into all users, traffic, data, and workloads, and have uniform security policies applied across all locations to make sure no security loopholes exist.
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Vishal Chawla is a senior tech journalist at Analytics India Magazine and writes about AI, data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and blockchain. Vishal also hosts AIM's video podcast called Simulated Reality- featuring tech leaders, AI experts, and innovative startups of India.