There has been a massive rise in the number of telecommuting workers as a result of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic and cybercriminals are taking advantage. Phishing and malware attacks have soared in the past few weeks and home workers are being targeted.

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Individuals who regularly worked from home before the COVID-19 crisis will be used to taking precautions when connecting to virtual environments set up by their employers, but huge numbers of employees are now logging in remotely for the very first time and may not be aware of the telecommuting cybersecurity risks. IT and IT security departments have also had to set up the workforce for home working in a hurry, and the sheer number of employees that have been forced into telecommuting means corners have had to be cut which has created opportunities for cybercriminals.

Even if the transition to having the entire workforce telecommuting has been expertly managed, risk will have increased considerably.  Cybersecurity is far harder to manage when the entire workforce is outside the protection of the corporate firewall and with most workers telecommuting, the attack surface has grown considerably.

Telecommuting workers are seen as low hanging fruit and cybercriminals are taking advantage of the ease at which attacks can be conducted. Since January there has been a massive increase in phishing attacks, malware attacks, and attacks over the internet targeting remote workers.

NASA Sees “Exponential Increase” in Malware Attacks

On April 6, 2020, NASA sent a memo to all personnel warning of a massive increase in targeted attacks on the agency.  NASA explained in the memo that the number of phishing attempts on NASA employees has doubled in the past few days and its systems designed to block employees from accessing malicious websites has gone into overdrive. The number of malicious websites that are now being blocked has also doubled, which strongly suggests employees are clicking on links in phishing emails and are being fooled by these scams. NASA also reports that there has been an “exponential increase in malware attacks on NASA systems.”

Attacks are being conducted by a diverse range of threat actors, from small players to prolific advanced persistent threat (APT) groups and nation-state sponsored hackers. NASA has warned its employees that those attackers are targeting NASA employees’ work and personal devices and that the attacks are likely to continue to increase throughout the Novel Coronavirus pandemic.

NASA is far from alone in experiencing a massive increase in attempted cyberattacks. Businesses of all sizes are now having to deal with unprecedented risks and are struggling to defend their networks from attack. They now have to defend a massively increased attack surface and the number of attacks has skyrocketed.

There are other factors that are making it difficult for employers. Employees crave information about the Novel Coronavirus and COVID-19 and cybercriminals are sending huge numbers of emails offering them just the information they seek. Huge numbers of websites are being set up that purport to offer advice on the Novel Coronavirus and COVID-19. Check Point has reported that more than 16,000 domains related to coronavirus or COVID-19 have been registered since January and those domains are 50% more likely to be malicious than other domains registered in the same period.

How to Protect Telecommuting Workers

There are three main ways that telecommuting workers are being attacked: Email, malicious websites, and the exploitation of vulnerabilities.

To prevent the latter, it is essential for software and operating systems to be kept up to date. This can be a challenge for IT departments at the best of times, but much harder when everyone is working remotely. Despite the difficulty, prompt patching is essential. Vulnerabilities in VPNs are being targeted by cybercriminals and offer an easy way to gain access to corporate networks. Employees should be told to make sure their VPN clients are running the latest software version and businesses should ensure their VPN infrastructure is kept up to date, even if it means some downtime while updates are applied.

TitanHQ Can Help You Strengthen Email and Web Security

Advanced email security defenses are now required to protect against phishing and email-based malware threats. Some of the COVID-19 phishing campaigns that are now being conducted include some of the most sophisticated phishing threats we have ever seen.

You should not rely on one form of email security, such as Microsoft’s Exchange Online Protection for Office 365 accounts. Layered defenses are essential. Office 365 email security can be significantly strengthened by layering SpamTitan on top of Microsoft’s EOP protections. SpamTitan does not replace Office 365 protections, it improves them.

SpamTitan is an advanced email security solution that incorporates powerful, real time updated AI-driven threat intelligence to block spam, phishing, malware, malicious links, and other email threats from incoming mail. SpamTitan sandboxing identifies threats that signature-based detection solutions miss and is effective at identifying and blocking zero-day malware threats.

Each day, the number of malicious websites related to COVID-19 grows. These websites are used to phish for sensitive information such as email and VPN credentials and for drive-by downloads of malware. To protect remote workers and prevent them from accessing these malicious websites, a web filtering solution is required.

WebTitan DNS Security offers protection against web-based threats and prevents employees from accessing known malicious websites. WebTitan DNS Security is seeing massively increased traffic demand for its scanning and web detection features, but the solution is cloud based and has been developed with scalability in mind. WebTitan DNS Security is blocking new threats as soon as they are identified to keep customers and their employees protected. The solution can be easily implemented to protect remote workers but inserting simple code into enterprise devices which points the DNS to WebTitan. That small change will ensure the internet is filtered for all employees, no matter where they are working.

TitanHQ is committed to providing safe and secure email and internet usage for our customers, partners and their users, now more than ever. Contact TitanHQ today for help improving security at your organization.