The State of Cybersecurity in New Zealand during Covid-19

In New Zealand, cyberthreats continue to grow in number, scope, and scale. The novel coronavirus has only made things worse. The risk of security breaches that can cause the loss or destruction of data, privacy breaches, and holding systems to ransom has increased significantly during Covid-19. Cybercriminals are working tirelessly in attempts to exploit public concern around the deadly virus, and businesses, as well as individuals, should ensure they have robust cybersecurity measures in place.

A large number of people, businesses, and organizations are still working from home due to the threat of coronavirus. The unprecedented surge in remote working has created a particularly ripe opportunity for cybercriminals. Coronavirus-themed threats such as phishing, online scams, malware, and ransomware have become rampant. The country’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is advising business entities to maintain a high level of cybersecurity resilience and awareness during the national response to the pandemic.

Cyberattacks Facing New Zealanders during Covid-19

There have been multiple reports of cybercriminals using the Covid-19 crisis to carry out online scams. These threats aren’t exactly new per se, cybercriminals are pivoting their existing infrastructure to include Covid-19 keywords and capitalize on public fear. Known threats such as phishing, malware, and ransomware have adopted a Covid-19 theme. Here are the common types of scams and attacks kiwis are facing at the moment.

Phishing Emails

Coronavirus-themed phishing emails and email scams have increased dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic. People are receiving emails that appear to have originated from sources such as the World Health Organization (WHO). In most cases, these emails have attachments containing ‘health information’ which turns out to be malicious software that will steal personal data once it infects your device.

Malware

The threat of malware has increased tremendously during Covid-19. Cybercriminals are using coronavirus-themed phishing emails to spread malware most of the time. However, security researchers are increasingly discovering new ways hackers can infect your system with malware during Covid-19. For instance, there have been reports of a Covid-19 map application that cybercriminals are using to trick users into downloading malware into their devices.

Ransomware

Although phishing and malware have been particularly successful methods of attack in the wake of the novel coronavirus, ransomware hasn’t been that far behind. Ransomware using coronavirus-themed messages and attachments have been just as common. Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts data and prevents users from accessing their systems until payment is made. This type of malware holds your system to ransom.

How Businesses and Individuals Can Increase Protection Against Cyberattacks

When it comes to cyberattacks, hackers have upped the ante since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. A recent Barracuda Networks study indicated that 40% of organizations in New Zealand had at least one data breach since shifting to remote working, and 37% of employees experienced email phishing attacks. New Zealanders need to do more to protect themselves. Below, we take a look at some of the steps individuals and businesses can take to increase protection against cyberattacks.

Use a VPN

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) creates a private network from a public internet connection giving you online privacy and anonymity. A VPN is one of the most effective tools when it comes to defending against online threats. It makes your internet connection more secure and helps you get around geographical restrictions. Using this service makes it more difficult for your ISP, the government, and hackers to track your online activity and possibly infect your computer with malware.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Using two-factor authentication, also known as multi factor authentication, can help prevent hackers from breaching your online accounts. Enabling two-factor authentication on any account that requires login credentials is a great way to add an extra layer of security and secure your data. When you have two-factor authentication enabled, a one-time security code will be sent to your mobile device to complete the login process. Hackers will not be able to access your online accounts unless they have access to your phone.

Employee Training

For cybercriminals, one of the most effective ways to breach security systems is to exploit the human element. Training will help you identify and avoid cybersecurity threats by helping you stay sharp vis-à-vis the attack vectors and techniques cybercriminals are using. For instance, training your employees to identify suspicious emails can increase protection against phishing, ransomware, and other email-borne threats. Teaching your employees to avoid clicking on email attachments and links unless they’re sure that the source is legitimate is the basic rule.

Encrypt and Backup Your Data

To ensure that your data is safe from hackers and other online criminals, you need to have effective encryption and backup strategy. Encryption is one of the most efficient fixes for data breaches as it renders sensitive data useless in case it falls in the hands of cybercriminals. Use encryption software to encrypt all sensitive information including business data, employee information, and customer information. Backing up your data can help you wipe your systems clean and restore files from the backup in the event of a ransomware attack.

Keep Your System Up-to-Date

Cybercriminals will take advantage of any vulnerabilities in your system and try to exploit them before you have time to deploy patches. Always keep your operating system, web browser, and security software up to date. Updating your system will patch security holes that cybercriminals could exploit and infect your system with malicious code or access sensitive company data. Security experts recommend turning on the auto-update feature on your devices so that updates can be installed automatically as soon as they are made available.

In New Zealand, cybercriminals are using threats such as phishing, malware, and ransomware to take advantage of the fears and doubts brought about by the novel coronavirus. Shockingly, even faced with these imminent risks, many New Zealanders do not have an up-to-date cybersecurity strategy in place. Businesses need to adjust their defence strategies to improve cybersecurity and make it harder for hackers to be successful. Employees also need to take responsibility for protecting their data when working from home.

Writer’s bio:

Amy Cavendish is a content strategist at the TechFools, a tech blog aiming to inform readers about the potential dangers of technology and introduce them to the best ways to protect themselves online. As an outspoken advocate for digital freedom, Amy is dedicated to empowering her readers to take control of their digital lives with her thought-leadership articles.

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