• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Work from home: Cyber tips for surviving COVID-9 pandemic

Bank loses N1.87bn to cyber-theft

Moving from the prevailing physical model to the cyberspace as lofty as it may seem, is a journey suffused with risks which organizations have to be aware of if they are to achieve continuity of their businesses unscathed. Cyberspace has many predatory animals waiting to conveniently cherry-pick on organizations’ critical data and assets for various malicious purposes.

Cyber predators are lurking for organizations and businesses to commence the journey into the unfamiliar cyber terrain through models such as work-from-home or remote work model. They know that many organizations jostling to adopt these models have their focus on continuity of business operations with little or no consideration of the presence of dangers or risks lurking on their way.

Before the Coronavirus pandemic, statistics on cyber incidences from research institutions paints a very gloomy picture of the Nigerian businesses with a cyber-presence. Threat Intelligence Reports from CheckPoints a renowned institution monitoring cyber threat globally shows that among others, on the average:

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· A typical organization in Nigeria with internet presence is being attacked 1292 times per week in the last six months (October 2019 to date), compared to 411 attacks per organization globally. (With the COVID-19 and changing business model, this figure would have doubled)

·88 per cent of the malicious files targeting institutions in Nigeria was delivered via e-mail, compared to 66 per cent of malicious files globally. (This is as a result of the low cyber risks awareness level in most businesses in Nigeria)

· The most common vulnerability exploit type in Nigeria is Remote Code Execution (RCE), impacting 70 per cent of the organization in the country. RCE gives that attacker the ability to take control of organizations systems in Nigeria)

All these are happening with organizations operating a 90 per cent physical model and less than 10 per cent cyber presence or dependence. One could best imagine the volume of undetected attacks now that most organizations are adopting or considering the “work-from-home” model which obviously increases the attack surface thereby creating ideal conditions for attackers that seek to take advantage of the corona endemic.

The RWM model mandates organizations personnel to connect remotely to their respective offices to do their work and access business emails and applications using home devices which most often are not protected by the corporate firewalls and anti-phishing security controls (if exist). Most times, connections are made using home routers which are ungoverned.  Browsers on many computers provided by companies hold sensitive information like user IDs and passwords and attackers find these easy targets to gain remote credentials and perform malicious logins to the corporate network. With the low-level security awareness, phishing campaigns through email makes employees at home a soft and easy target.

One might be tempted to argue that connections to corporate networks (in the Work-from-Home model) are done via Virtual Private Network (VPN) and are secured, this posture provides a false sense of security as attackers according to PCYSYS (“Proactive Cyber Systems”) could easily transform VPN by an “owned” computer, into a magical back door to the organization’s network.

As inundating as this might be, taking necessary precautions as prescribed by ISACA Abuja and other cybersecurity professionals globally might guarantee successful navigation to safety hence business continuity as the organization considers the RWM model. These measures apply to both businesses (Government and non-government) as well as individuals. The measures include: Companies carefully considering setting up a Cyber Risk Management team to evaluate all possible risk scenarios, ensuring that adequate IT resources are in place to support staff in case of technical issues while teleworking. And providing relevant information, e.g. on contact points, to staff and investing more in creating awareness on the do’s and don’ts while working from home.

Other measures include: ensuring employees devices comply with organizations internal policy, have up-to-date security software and security patch levels and ensuring all the corporate business applications are accessible only via encrypted communication channels, as well as ensuring Data at Rest (DAR) on employee laptops are encrypted to protect against unauthorized disclosure in the event of theft or devise loss among others.

ISACA Abuja says it is important for Nigerians to be particularly careful with any emails referencing the coronavirus, as these may be phishing attempts or scams.