The COVID-19 pandemic changed nearly every aspect of our lives. Even as summer winds down, we’re still seeing changes to our personal and professional lives. Many workplaces are back in the office at some capacity, but some are still cycling employees in and out or working remotely. The world might look this way for a while longer, even as 2021 draws nearer. This means it’s ideal to know how to best navigate the current reality rather than wait patiently for things to return to normal.
One of the many unfortunate developments of COVID-19 is the rise in cybercrime. A number of factors led to one of the most active spring seasons in hacks, data breaches, and identity theft. Even those who are incredibly tech-savvy began seeing new and inventive ways criminals attempted to get into your devices. This isn’t going away either. As experts work hard on ways to combat the increase in digital crime, here are five ways cybercrime changed during COVID-19 that you should be aware of heading into the end of 2020.
How COVID-19 Changed Cybercrime
Cybercrime is a prevalent threat in any year of the 21st century. More and more businesses operate their core services online and individuals spend more time on the internet now than ever before. With all of these factors enhanced by COVID-19 and the move to work digitally, there are a number of threats developing that pose a risk to your information.
While some of these threats might seem like no-brainers, such as email phishing, the unfamiliarity with the world around us as it responds to COVID-19 is leading even educated internet users into cybercriminal traps. Here are five key elements of cybercrime in the COVID-19 era to keep in mind, no matter how familiar you are with attempts to hack your data.
1 – More Time Online Means More Danger
The first element we’ll discuss is the very reason we’re seeing an increase in cybercrime. Whether it’s for business or pleasure, we’re all spending more time online than usual. This has a lot to do with our favorite activities no longer being open or our increased sense of insecurity in our favorite places. That means less time exploring around town and more screen time. This led to cybercriminals taking note of the increased usage and upping their efforts to steal data and information.
A key element to avoiding your increased screen time turning into a security breach is watching where you go online. If you’re unfamiliar with a website or account contacting you via social media or email, use extreme caution.
2 – Individuals Breaches Can Put the Organization At-Risk
With a lot of us working from home earlier in the year, our personal devices became workstations. Everything from home computers to tablets we regularly used for streaming or social media suddenly allowed us to work from home. Accessing files via servers or the cloud made for a convenient transition to work-from-home life, but it also left many of our companies at-risk.
Without the cybersafety infrastructure many companies use for organizational hardware and networks, each individual’s WiFi network and devices likely do not enjoy the same protections offered in the workplace. This means that a hack of your personal device you use to work remotely could suddenly put your company at risk. Be sure to discuss safety precautions and software with your employer to ensure you have everything protected to the best of your ability.
3 – Mobile Devices Targeted Unlike Ever Before
Whether it’s shopping, keeping in touch with friends and family, or checking work emails, our mobile devices are a lifeline right now to all elements of our world. Everyone from teens to older adults is using mobile devices more than ever. This makes it advantageous for cybercriminals to utilize mobile-friendly methods of attempting to hack your device. Mobile websites often look different than what we’re used to on the desktop, so many fake websites and landing pages are set up to trick users into clicking on things they shouldn’t.
The golden rule of the COVID-19 world is to always use a computer or laptop when possible for sensitive online activities. While banking apps are still fine to use on mobile, doing things you don’t normally do on mobile devices can be a bit riskier right now than usual.
4 – Phishing Scams Take Advantage of Remote Workers
Likewise, email scams are being reported by literally everyone across the working world. Because this prevalence of remote communications is so foreign to many of us, we’re likely emailing with people we’d usually see face-to-face. In any case of sending or receiving email from someone you don’t usually contact digitally, you must practice extreme caution.
Things like authentication signatures at the bottom of emails can go a long way to ensure your peers know you are the one sending emails. Likewise, be wary of weird wording in emails that might poorly hide the fact that you’re receiving a possible scam. Things like short text bodies and a link you don’t recognize are an immediate red flag.
5 – Viruses Masked as Crucial Information
Lastly, we’re all trying our best to keep up with the latest info on COVID-19. Many hackers are using this to trick people into clicking links or visiting websites that host viruses. Always try to ensure you visit websites for updates to COVID-19 related information that you can trust. If you get a link or see a website someone mentions online that indicates important updates on the pandemic, be cautious. Social media hacks can be an incredibly vicious place for these sorts of viruses.
One friend who “shares” a link to a COVID-19 related article might actually have been hacked. Be sure to watch for your friends’ posts and let them know if you see something unusual. Never click these mysterious articles or posts, especially if they take you off-site.
COVID-19 is a tricky time for all of us, but cybercriminals are trying to use the pandemic to steal information from anyone they can. Be safe as we traverse this new digital frontier and always use caution when dealing with new technologies or websites!