Increase in viruses targeted towards remote workers

Cybercriminals are unleashing a surprisingly high volume of new threats in this short period of time to take advantage of inadvertent security gaps as organisations are in a rush to ensure business continuity.

Cyber Security firm Fortinet on Monday announced that over the past several weeks, it has been monitoring a significant spike in COVID-19 related threats.

An unprecedented number of unprotected users and devices are now online with one or two people in every home connecting remotely to work through the internet. Simultaneously there are children at home engaged in remote learning and the entire family is engaged in multi-player games, chatting with friends as well as streaming music and video. The cybersec firm’s FortiGuard Labs is observing this perfect storm of opportunity being exploited by cybercriminals as the Threat Report on the Pandemic highlights:

  • A surge in Phishing Attacks: The research shows an average of about 600 new phishing campaigns every day. The content is designed to either prey on the fears and concerns of individuals or pretend to provide essential information on the current pandemic. The phishing attacks range from scams related to helping individuals deposit their stimulus for Covid-19 tests, to providing access to Chloroquine and other medicines or medical device, to providing helpdesk support for new teleworkers.
  • Phishing Scams Are Just the Start: While the attacks start with a phishing attack, their end goal is to steal personal information or even target businesses through teleworkers. Majority of the phishing attacks contain malicious payloads – including ransomware, viruses, remote access trojans (RATs) designed to provide criminals with remote access to endpoint systems, and even RDP (remote desktop protocol) exploits.
  • A Sudden Spike in Viruses: The first quarter of 2020 has documented a 17% increase in viruses for January, a 52% increase for February and an alarming 131% increase for March compared to the same period in 2019. The significant rise in viruses is mainly attributed to malicious phishing attachments. Multiple sites that are illegally streaming movies that were still in theatres secretly infect malware to anyone who logs on. Free game, free movie, and the attacker is on your network.
  • Risks for IoT Devices magnify: As users are all connected to the home network, attackers have multiple avenues of attack that can be exploited targeting devices including computers, tablets, gaming and entertainment systems and even online IoT devices such as digital cameras, smart appliances – with the ultimate goal of finding a way back into a corporate network and its valuable digital resources.
  • Ransomware like attack to disrupt business: If the device of a remote worker can be compromised, it can become a conduit back into the organization’s core network, enabling the spread of malware to other remote workers. The resulting business disruption can be just as effective as ransomware targeting internal network systems for taking a business offline. Since helpdesks are now remote, devices infected with ransomware or a virus can incapacitate workers for days while devices are mailed in for reimaging.

“Though organizations have completed the initial phase of transitioning their entire workforce to remote telework and employees are becoming increasingly comfortable with their new reality, CISOs continue to face new challenges presented by maintaining a secure teleworker business model. From redefining their security baseline, or supporting technology enablement for remote workers, to developing detailed policies for employees to have access to data, organizations must be nimble and adapt quickly to overcome these new problems that are arising”,said Derek Manky, Chief, Security Insights & Global Threat Alliances at Fortinet – Office of CISO.

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