ICT Clinic (Punch Newspaper)

COVID-19 and the rise in global cyberattacks [ICT Clinic]

From less than 5,000 phishing attacks related to COVID-19 in February, the number spiked to over 200,000 towards the end of April 2020. It is not an overstatement to say that the pandemic has fueled unprecedented cyberattacks since the beginning of 2020.

From March to April alone, according to a mid-year report from Check Point, there were 34 per cent increase in the rate of cyberattacks that resulted from consumers stepping up their purchases online to working remotely from home.

Check Point observed new ransomware that cybercriminals covertly use in extracting data in large quantities from their target before encrypting them, putting their victims in a position to do their bidding, as they are being threatened of leaking their data.

The World Health Organisation did not escape this threat as it saw an increased rate in attacks, up to 500 per cent.

The report from Check Point indicated that: email attack vectors (78 per cent) dominated web attack vectors (22 per cent); excel files rank top as most malicious files across the web (42 per cent), followed by email (26 per cent); over 20 per cent of the cyberattacks explored vulnerabilities that are up to seven years old; and 20 per cent of cyberattacks carried out globally are crypto attacks.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not just caused a disruption in the global order, it has also changed the scope of cybersecurity and threats.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, there appears to have been a change in the behavioural pattern of cybercriminals, a development that has led to a wave of COVID-19-related cyberattacks.

It must be stated clearly here that this development is not peculiar to this current pandemic. In the past, cybercriminals have explored global occurrences like this to exploit victims. Global disasters, such as the outbreak of the Zika Virus and the Indian Ocean tsunami that happened in 2004, are cases in point.

As cybercriminals continue to exploit the loopholes created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the generality of the world’s workforce is adapting to these unprecedented changes. With the new practice of social distancing, a significant number of the corporate workforce has adopted the remote working model. Companies are now looking into deploying collaborative software, while implementing a VPN infrastructure.

With changes in the world, especially with a global crisis, cyberattackers are usually on the rampage. As the pandemic has forced a stay-at-home, work-from-home strategy for many businesses, even as the lockdown is being gradually eased, there have been more log-in activities performed remotely.

This implies that these activities have been done over private connections on relatively insecure Internet. This has rather opened up vulnerabilities on remote login, thus making them easy prey for hackers. As it stands, we need to learn from the cyberattacks that have happened during this pandemic, so as to get prepared for what is coming.

Hackers or, let us say, cyberattackers have demonstrated that in times like this, they are ready to take advantage of every opportunity of the slightest vulnerability. Hackers have utilised this fear amidst the COVID-19 pandemic with some — Finish Reading on the Punch

About the author

Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata Jnr

CFA hosts Tech Trends on Channels Television, writes the ICT Column in the Punch Newspapers & also blogs on cfagbata.com.

CFA currently serves as the African Regional Director of Founder Institute.

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