Bird Flu, SARS, MERS and now Coronavirus (COVID-19).  Recent outbreaks of pandemic viruses or even potential pandemic viruses have caused widespread concern and discussion of “what if”.  The World Health Organization has put out many personal protection suggestions. As an example, WHO has recommended washing hands with soap regularly; cover nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing; avoid crowded confined spaces with minimal ventilation; and avoid touching public surfaces such as door knobs, counter tops, etc.  But what about your cyber safety?

It is unlikely that today’s cyber criminals will take a break from maliciously attacking because of a COVID-19 outbreak.  It is far more likely that it will be viewed as a window of opportunity. What would be a few of the impacts of a COVID-19 outbreak in your city?

  • FEMA estimated up to 40% of the workforce in an infected city will be unable or unwilling to come to work.  
  • Increase reliance on email & phone calls 
  • Increase in remote workforce
  • Key personnel out of the office (CISO, CIO, Network security team, etc.)
  • Organization shift in priorities to health and safety and away from cyber security

Is your organization prepared?

Whether COVID-19 becomes the pandemic that some are suggesting can be debated, however, preparing for the eventuality that at some point in the future a scenario will arise that limits your workforce and opens opportunities for cyber criminals is critical.  Every organization faces external threats that should be part of the strategic, cybersecurity and emergency response plans. In order to prepare your organization should evaluate your current plans to prepare.

  • Review/Update your strategic plan
    • Train employees to recognize and report suspicious cyber activities
    • Prepare for a displaced/remote workforce
    • Implement take home laptop policy
    • Implement annual table-top exercise
    • Implement remote worker policy 
  • Review/Update your emergency response plan
    • Review COOP availability and exercise plan
    • Prepare to rapidly implement contact workforce
    • Prepare for remote workforce
    • Document mission critical operations
    • Implement “social distancing” of employees
  • Review/Update your cyber security plan 
    • Implement 2-factor authentication
    • Update/implement BYOD policy
    • Implement enterprise solutions to block malicious traffic before your network
    • Secure IoT inside your organization (example: A/C unit in server room)

The attackers are professional criminal organizations or potentially nation state actors that are prepared and ready to attack your organization when given the opportunity.  Don’t offer them that opportunity. Are you prepared?