Very few things about life today are the same as they were a year ago. From wearing masks out in public to avoiding in-person contact with even close friends and family, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed virtually everything about how we live, shop, and work.
And while not all of these changes have necessarily been welcome, they have had the benefit of providing some important lessons about cyber security for businesses. Despite the majority of people working remotely, in some ways corporate cyber security has improved for the better. IT security teams have become better equipped to handle a wide variety of risks over the last nine months, and are consistently working on ways to keep networks and data secure.
With that in mind, here are six of the biggest lessons that IT security has learned in 2020.
1. Phishing is Still a Major Security Risk
Phishing has long been a headache for security teams, and remains one of the most common methods for hackers to gain access to corporate networks and steal information. COVID-19 has once again brought this to the forefront, especially with people working from home. Particularly in the early days of the pandemic, when many companies relaxed security rules in an effort to get everyone up and running remotely, hackers took advantage by sending targeted attacks that closely mimicked official communication. Even now, months later, hackers use messages that hit trigger words (like coronavirus, pandemic, COVID, etc.) to get recipients to respond. All of this is to say that phishing remains a major problem, and security efforts need to focus on learning to identify and thwart these attacks. Additional training is also a must, with strict response protocols for suspected phishing messages.
2. Collaboration Tools Need to be Secured
The prevalence of the “Zoom bomb” last spring, where hackers illegally gained access to online video conferences and did everything from sharing porn to making obnoxious comments highlights a very important point when it comes to remote work: All online collaboration tools need to be secured. All users need to be trained in how to make the most of built in security functions, and there must be clear best practices regarding the scheduling, management, and recording of meetings. Otherwise, there’s the risk of leaked data, including the full recordings of meetings to anyone who can find them.
3. Security and Operations Need More Balance
As mentioned previously, during the early days of the pandemic, operations took precedence over security as workers needed different levels of access to networks than normal in order to be productive from home. Many security teams struggled to balance the correct credentials and permissions across all user identities and devices, and in many cases, permissions were extended incorrectly. This created a wide range of risks, including the potential for hackers to get into corporate networks via devices that would normally be restricted. As we’ve progressed, though, security has relaxed the need for balance, and to implement more context-based protocols that prevent both employees and adversaries from accessing applications and information they aren’t permitted to.
4. Cloud Security is Key
The cloud has been more important than ever before during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing businesses to share and store data and work remotely in ways they have never been able to before. However, this reliance on cloud-based applications and storage has also highlighted the need for advanced cloud security. It’s become even more important for businesses to view cloud security as a shared responsibility between them and the cloud platform providers, and to develop comprehensive plans for data protection, disaster management, and cloud availability.
5.Threat Intelligence Needs to be Diverse
Not all threats are created equal, nor are they equally relevant to every organization. However, understanding the new and ever-changing threat landscape requires gathering data from diverse sources and synthesizing them into useful intelligence. Throughout the last nine months, threat intelligence has used both artificial intelligence-driven tools and human insight to identify pandemic related threats to a variety of industries and organizations. If nothing else, the pandemic has underscored the importance of ongoing, context-based monitoring and threat intelligence to meet new and developing risks to corporate networks.
6. Security Training Should be Extended Beyond Employees
Although the risks inherent in working from home have long been a concern to security teams, the fact that the majority of the workforce is working remotely now has brought those concerns to the forefront. With everyone in your household working on the same Wi-fi network, the security habits and practices (or lack thereof) of your family can affect the security of your work tools. Thus, many companies have implemented training protocols and guidance for families, in an effort to keep everyone safe.
As COVID-19 continues to rage, there will undoubtedly be more lessons for everyone, in all aspects of life. Even if you do eventually return to the office, expect to find a new security landscape to contend with.