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Growing Need for Cyber Security in the COVID-19 Times

Growing Need for Cyber Security in the COVID-19 Times

Rise and the need for cyber security testing services in Covid 19 times

A deadly pandemic has given rise to a new work culture; work from home. The remote work environment has further resulted in the need for web-based apps that make virtual meetings possible in these testing times. The use of apps such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Duo etc., have seen a huge surge in popularity. 

With meetings being conducted from the home and important decisions, both economic and otherwise, being taken over the internet, hackers are having a field day. Cyber crimes are on the rise and the need for cyber security testing services has also grown manifold.

Paradoxically, it took a pandemic for the world to understand the importance of digital transformation. This was long overdue but with people and systems ill-prepared to face the sudden increase in demand, initial hick-ups were pretty common. However, the systems were pretty quick in dealing with the deficiencies and creating a new world which remained connected despite maintaining physical and social distancing.

Unfortunately, this digital transformation also resulted in cyber vulnerability. Cyber security was said to be compromised in many popular apps. Ironically the Indian app which was developed to detect coronavirus cases in one’s vicinity and keep them safe from the pandemic in turn also resulted in cyber vulnerability for these people. With people around the world grappling with multiple issues like recession, economic crisis, pandemic, infodemic etc, the threat to cyber security emerged as a growing concern. Potentially it is almost as harmful as the pandemic and with hackers glorifying the huge opportunities that have suddenly opened up, cyber security has become a major cause of concern today.

Is it really surprising? Actually, it was expected. Deployment of a remote workforce, access to crucial IT infrastructure, using virtual consultations as a collaborative tool to enable team interactions, multi-player interventions, cloud-based solutions, easy access to proprietary corporate data on endpoint devices etc., has become the new way of doing business. There has been a shift in the dynamics. The usual 5% of remote workforce enthusiasts have gone up radically to 95% of mainstream users. Protecting such a huge workforce from online invasions is quite a challenging job. And this has always been widely acknowledged. The reasons behind this include digital naivety, complete ignorance about cyber hygiene protocols and general inability to maintain online safety. Coupled with this the swift implementation of updated digital systems and modalities without educating or training the remote workforce is further aggravating the situation.

What is digital transformation?

Before progressing further into the importance of security testing services in the current situation, there is a need to understand the ongoing digital transformation.

Simply speaking it is both a cultural and digital change that is getting incorporated. Calling it a cultural change gets justified as it encourages organizations and corporates to:

  • Keep challenging status quo continuously
  • Innovate and experiment
  • Take failures casually and comfortably

However, strictly speaking, digital transformation is a process of integration. Herein digital technology incorporation is done in all aspects of a business so that it can:

  • Change the way a business operates
  • Provide better value to its existing and new customers

The need for digital transformation is not restricted only to large organizations. Every business from MSMEs or Micro, small and medium enterprises to larger corporates needs to go through this. It is imperative for their survival in the highly competitive digital world. But before the onset of the pandemic, there were few takers for this. Most thought it meant shifting over to cloud-based services. It took a pandemic named COVID-19 for the world to understand the need for digital transformation and start implementing it on a war footing with:

  • Stage 1 already implemented by way of a complete breakdown of societal and infrastructural functions brought on by the lockdown,
  • Stage 2 currently ongoing with critical functions like money flow, basic services, supply chain management etc. stabilizing slowly and
  • Stage 3 on the horizon wherein new policies and digital solutions will change people’s perspective and way of working completely.

As the need for non-verbal communication increases over digital channels, internet infrastructure also needs to grow. Had it been a gradual process, the transition would have been smooth. But the sudden plunge into this digital transformation has resulted in several loopholes. It is these loopholes that create opportunities for hackers. Thus with digital transformation, the need for security testing services also increases.

Today, almost 50 percent of global businesses lack the confidence to successfully ward off a cyber attack. Of this about 30 percent businesses have never tested or updated their cyber response plan. Thus the whole idea of working from home gets compromised. Operating on less secure internet networks and handling sensitive corporate data makes them easy targets for cyber attacks. Consequently, since January 2020, there has been a spike in phishing attacks and social engineering. New domains containing terms related to the coronavirus have increased. While some of them are genuine and offer relevant information, there are several that are fraudulent. Some are also being used as distribution websites for banking malware like Kimsuky, Mustang Panda etc., and other viruses like data stealers, ransomware etc.

The more anxious a person gets, the more he gravitates towards the internet to look for answers. For the hacker, who has the time, resource and intent, preying on such employees becomes easy. While the world looks towards discovering ways to tackle this menace, cyber criminals might have already made their move. Making use of these anxious and vulnerable moments they would already have set in motion cyber crimes which are slated to make a huge impact.

Managing the challenges of cyber threat

So what does one do? Going back to the previous ways of working is no longer an option. Moving forward is the only alternative left. And this means tackling the proliferating threat to cyber security head-on by:

  • Introducing several procedural and technical controls like:
    1. Restricting data download size
    2. Using secure channels to protect in-transit data
    3. Making sensitive corporate data “Read only”
    4. Using security testing services to ensure cyber security protocols
    5. Favouring trusted communication channels
    6. Saying no to sensationalism and checking facts by cross-referencing information etc.
  • Sensitizing employees on their internet risk exposure by:
    1. Training them to identify threats to cyber security,
    2. Educating them using refresher courses about the measures to be taken to detect, respond, report and prevent cyber crime,
    3. Making them understand the importance of thinking before clicking etc.
  • Enabling constant communication with employees with regards to:
    1. Password administration,
    2. Identity management,
    3. Multi-factor identification,
    4. Device security settings etc.
  • Taking extra care of those who are digitally naïve or resistant to this digital transformation,
  • Managing the IT workforce to ensure that:
    1. All configurations are up to date,
    2. Discovered vulnerabilities are patched in their nascent stage,
    3. Detection of connection attempts from suspicious is done quickly and repelled effectively etc.
  • Leveraging on digital solutions like encryption, VPN, multiple authentication factors like OTP, biometrics, digital signatures etc. to ensure the protection of company data and enable secure communication etc.  

The World Economic Forum, while aiming to bring about a balance between the long term and short term goals with regards to cyber security, has come up with 5 important proposals to combat this threat. They are:

  • Fostering the growth of cyber resilience
  • Prioritizing the protection of critical corporate assets, services and financial data
  • Coming to a balance with regards to risk-informed decisions in the current COVID-19 scenario and beyond
  • Enabling a smooth business transition to a new normal by updating and practicing cyber threat response and formulating effective business continuity plans and
  • Strengthening the collaboration network across the ecosystem.

Cyber security market growth trends

The pandemic has proved to be the catalyst for digital transformation and subsequently, the need for cyber security has also increased. Globally, the cyber security market size is predicted to grow at a CAGR rate of 12% by the year 2021.  Contributing factor for this spike is the increasing focus of the business community on cyber security testing services as a means of enabling business continuity.

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Also Read: Leading Digital Security Trends for 2020

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Today cyber security is just not a support function. It is a game changer; a vital shield to secure customer data and operations. The ongoing pandemic has helped provide an opportunity for business houses, corporations and MSMEs to take stock of their IT infrastructure and accordingly deploy robust and technologically advanced solutions to ensure cyber security.

Investment in cyber security solutions is no longer a one-time flick. If done properly today, they will enable organizations to sustain themselves in the future as demand for work from home will only increase. Companies using cloud services should be extra careful and ensure:

  • Stronger security configurations and
  • Ensure monitoring to prevent unauthorized manipulation.

The situation is dynamic; cyber criminals always manage to stay one step ahead. Strict vigilance, adherence to security guidelines and protocol and enabling security testing services may be the only guard against them. Hence people need to stay informed, be alert and vary of phishing messages and emails, enable strict monitoring of all aspects of cyber security and keep changing passwords with regular frequency. This is the only way organizations will be secure and will also be able to counter potential cyber-attacks and threats especially when they have employees working from home.

About the Author

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Established in 2003, with less than five testing experts, QA InfoTech has grown leaps and bounds with three QA Centers of Excellence globally; two of which are located in the hub of IT activity in India, Noida, and the other, our affiliate QA InfoTech Inc Michigan USA. In 2010 and 2011, QA InfoTech has been ranked in the top 100 places to work for in India.