COVID-19 Cybersecurity Tips: Securing Confidential Data

While the public health and economic consequences of COVID-19 continue to dominate the headlines, organizations are beginning to understand how the pandemic also poses a threat to data security. A combination of factors, such as an increasingly remote workforce and an increase in cybersecurity attacks, are creating justifiable concerns over whether companies are taking sufficient steps for risk mitigation to prevent data breaches. While the threat environment may be evolving rapidly, there are still a few fundamental cybersecurity tips organizations can deploy in any situation to ensure their data remains safe and sound.

5 Cybersecurity Tips for Protecting Your Data During the Coronavirus Pandemic

1. Secure Your Endpoints

With so many employees shifting to working remotely, organizations need to be keenly aware of how having a distributed workforce accessing data with unknown devices from potentially unsecured connections impacts their cybersecurity. On-site workers generally access data and applications through the relative safety of a secure company network, which is protected by multiple layers of firewalls, up-to-date security software, and linked to external cloud providers through a variety of secured connections. All of those protections disappear when employees step outside the office door. 

Organizations have to assume that any device employees are using remotely could potentially be compromised in some way, especially in the case of personal devices that haven’t been vetted and prepared by IT personnel. More importantly, they also have to assume that home internet connections are not adequately secured. Setting up a combination of VPNs (virtual private networks) or a more comprehensive ZTNA (zero trust network access) can help risk mitigation by subjecting remote employees to greater security scrutiny when they attempt to access data.

2. Watch for COVID-19 Related Cybersecurity Attacks

The coronavirus pandemic may be bringing people together to fight against a common threat, but it also presents an opportunity for nefarious cyber hackers looking to take advantage of any misfortune to steal or extort valuable data. These attacks started early, with a wave of phishing scams using Emotet malware sweeping across Japan when the vast majority of known COVID-19 cases were still limited to China. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has warned that cybercriminals are using the fear and uncertainty over COVID-19 to trick people into revealing sensitive information or donating money to a variety of scams posing as charities.

Staying up to date on the latest threats is essential for mitigating risk to sensitive data. Not only must organizations know what potential threats they need to guard against, but they also need to communicate those threats to employees working remotely. With so many employees working from home, maintaining a high-alert security posture is more important than ever. Even the best security measures can be undermined if the people logging into the company network don’t recognize how their actions could threaten data security.

3. Scrutinize Your Vendors

Very few organizations operate completely independently. They may outsource some key operational functions or work with outside vendors to expand their market reach in a number of ways. In many cases, confidential data passes back and forth between them to facilitate key business functions. Financial data could be exchanged with a payment processor, or perhaps a marketing company is given access to customer data. Organizations need to think about how the coronavirus pandemic will impact the way these vendors do business and whether their risk management is up to the task of keeping data secure

From a compliance standpoint, companies are potentially liable for any data breaches suffered by their vendors. While a vendor’s security policies and controls may be adequate under normal circumstances, they may not be able to manage the additional risks associated with a remote workforce. Organizations need to take a close look at how their vendors are adapting to the pressures of COVID-19 and assess their cybersecurity posture to ensure it’s up the challenge of keeping confidential data secure.

4. Invest in Managed Security

Given the increased risks that come along with transitioning to a remote workforce, it’s understandable that many organizations simply lack the resources and knowledge to rapidly adapt their network security to meet the challenge. By partnering with an experienced, managed cybersecurity services provider, they can quickly implement the necessary safeguards for strengthening their endpoint and firewall security. Managed security services can also perform vulnerability assessments to help identify where security gaps exist in a network and take action to shore up those weaknesses.

Once all of these measures have been implemented, however, there’s still an important role for managed IT security services to play during these uncertain times. Having a remote team of cybersecurity experts available to identify security threats and respond quickly to incidents can help reduce the risk of costly data breaches and keep essential services up and running. With organizations leaning on their network services more than ever, maintaining high levels of system uptime and ensuring data availability should be a top priority.

5. Hire a Virtual CISO

Recognizing that COVID-19 will have an impact on cybersecurity policies is one thing; actually revising and re-implementing those policies is quite another. For some enterprises, this task typically falls to the chief information security officer (CISO), but many companies don’t have an executive-level leader responsible for cybersecurity policy. Having a clearly defined plan in place for risk mitigation is essential if new security measures are going to be implemented effectively. Without the proper policies and controls, security measures often devolve into unorganized, ad hoc solutions that aren’t applied consistently across the organization.

For companies unable to afford the expense of a dedicated CISO or have difficulty finding a candidate with the right qualifications, a virtual CISO service can provide all the benefits of having a senior cybersecurity executive and more. These services provide a team of cybersecurity experts who bring a vast array of knowledge and experience to the table, which allows them to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and address the unique needs of any business. Since a virtual CISO team consists of many people, it can provide around-the-clock support and guidance while also staying up to date on the latest cybersecurity tips and developments.

Don’t Face COVID-19 Cybersecurity Attacks Alone

The pressures of the coronavirus pandemic are forcing companies to make a series of rapid decisions that could have tremendous implications for their cybersecurity policies. With information on the ground changing rapidly, it can be difficult to make the right choices when it comes to keeping sensitive data secure. Having a trusted and experienced partner like Compuquip Cybersecurity can help organizations respond to changing circumstances with confidence.

To find out more about the ways that your response to COVID-19 could be affecting your cybersecurity posture, contact us today for a consultation.