The COVID-19 global pandemic forcing millions of office workers to become remote workers has created a “perfect tsunami” for cyber criminals seeking to exploit the crisis and penetrate corporate defences via unsecured home networks. Unprecedented digital dependency has created unprecedented vulnerability, and an increase in malicious attempts to exploit the mass shift to online platforms for remote working, with South Africa experiencing a ten-fold spike in network attacks in mid-March[i] when much of the country moved to working from home.

Dr Martin Butler, Senior Lecturer in Digital Transformation at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) says companies should ensure that the “digital equivalent of hand-washing, face masks, social distancing and decontamination” is being implemented by their now-remote workforce.

Dr Martin Butler joins us on the line…

Cybersecurity provider Kaspersky reported a spike in South Africa in devices affected by cyberattacks, from the norm of under 30 000 daily to 310 000 on 18 March, and “extremely high levels of cyber exploits since – similar to reports from across the cybersecurity industry and across the world”, he said. The World Economic Forum (WEF) said last week (1 April 2020) that the rise in cybercriminal activity seeking to exploit the COVID-19 crisis made cybersecurity “critical to collective resilience” in the face of the pandemic’s impact on the global economy

In addition to using encrypted communication such as a VPN, Butler recommended that remote workers take precautions including:

  •                 •Using secure and complex passwords; and changing them frequently.
  •                 •Not replying to or clicking on links in phishing emails or messages.
  •                 •Be on the alert for COVID-19 scam emails.
  •                 •Ignore and delete Whatsapp messages with unknown links (especially from unknown senders).
  •                 •Take extreme care when connecting to unsecured networks.