The COVID-19 pandemic can’t affect computers…can it? Well, not exactly, but there are an awful lot of hackers hoping to capitalize off of it. Whether it’s exploiting users’ fears about the pandemic to trick them into falling for a phishing email, taking advantage of security flaws in collaborative software tools, or simply preying on users who no longer have the robust protection of a company wireless network with internal servers, hackers are cashing in.
Just as you can take steps to protect your body from COVID-19 infection, like staying home and wearing a mask in public, you can also take steps to protect your devices and home network from hackers during this time. While the threat level has definitely increased, the fundamentals of online safety haven’t changed. Be vigilant against phishing emails and other scams, especially those that purport to offer information related to the pandemic or your health. Stay on guard when using collaborative tools, and make sure to keep your devices and your network secure and up to date.
Be Especially Vigilant Against Scams
Hackers are doing everything they can to make a quick buck off users’ fears of the novel coronavirus, and that’s why phishing emails related to the virus saw a massive spike right away as the pandemic began to take hold.
Phishing emails are nothing new, and avoiding COVID-19 phishing scams requires the same strategies as avoiding any other phishing scam. Namely, avoid clicking on any links, opening any attachments, or installing any programs, widgets, or apps you’re offered via email. Keep abreast of some of the most common COVID-19-related phishing scams as they emerge — for example, one common phishing email that began going around in the early days of the pandemic, as the virus ravaged Italy, purported to offer a Word doc containing safety and hygiene information from the World Health Organization. However, the attached Word doc also contained dangerous malware.
Other common COVID-19 phishing scams to avoid include those that purport to offer a secret cure or treatment for the disease, or those that offer access to maps tracking cases of COVID-19 around the country or world. Ignore any emails that offer information about the virus, its spread, or its treatment — get your information from the news and, if you want to track the progress of the pandemic, seek out information on your own from a reputable source.
Keep Your Network and Devices Secure
With so many people working from home right now, safety protocols are more lax than they’ve ever been. Working from your home network doesn’t provide the same level of security as working from the office, where data is kept secure on internal servers, firewalls are in place, machines are equipped with up-to-date anti-malware protection, and there’s an entire department dedicated to keeping your info and machines safe and secure.
Now is a great time to invest in a secure network. A hardware firewall can keep your home network, devices, and work data safe. Practice good security protocol when working from home — use a comprehensive anti-malware that protects all of your devices, use separate devices for work and play, use a virtual private network (VPN) to connect to your company network, avoid using public wifi for work purposes, and take steps to physically safeguard your devices and important data.
Stay on Your Guard When Using Collaborative Tools
Collaborative tools like Zoom have been a godsend to companies that have been forced by circumstance to transition to remote workforces quickly, but these tools have also been found to be vulnerable to hacking. For that reason, stay on your guard when using these tools — always consider that you don’t really know who might be listening in, secretly recording calls and videoconferences, stealing transcripts, and the like. It’s best to avoid discussing confidential information over video conferencing tools or chat functions. If you must use collaborative tools to share confidential data, make sure you’re using the most secure tools possible.
COVID-19 may not be able to infect your computer, but that doesn’t mean your home network and devices aren’t at increased risk of hacking during this time. With the future uncertain and the economy shaky, hackers are looking to take optimum advantage of scared, stressed-out people — so don’t let yourself become a victim.