April 22

In a pandemic fight driven by data, keeping both the healthcare frontlines and your data at work and home safe is important as cyber threats increase.

It's a Data-Driven Pandemic

Modern medical practices have become very digital in recent years and this unprecedented coronavirus pandemic means that data is playing a bigger role than ever in the fight against it. Tracking cases and handling data everywhere from on the ground in municipalities up to national health departments has become the norm. The speed is important as collection and processing the data very rapidly allows it to be distributed to citizens and people working all over appearing on public health sites in tables, counters and dashboards and showing up in daily updates from political leaders. In the bigger global picture huge amounts of data is being shared between researchers and even published onto the internet as open-source resources so more people can be informed. We may even rely on these sources to find solutions to the pandemic challenge using big data computation and AI technologies like never before. The pandemic is data-driven with information playing a role in this 21st century healthcare fight at all levels from the frontlines to public health communications and the problem solvers collaborating to find solutions to these unprecedented challenges.

Data Threats Are Up - Cybersecurity at home and working from home - phishing, ransomware. Misinformation also!
While we are washing our hands and following distancing guidelines at work and home (and now also working from home), not everyone has our best interests at heart in these pandemic times as there has been an increase in threats to our private information and data security that we must also stay vigilant against. A number of threat fronts relevant to the current coronavirus climate are experiencing security threats, scam attempts, and misinformation that you should strive to protect yourself from. Canada’s Centre for Cyber Security calls it taking care of your cyber health.

Some threat types include phishing and malware campaigns that revolve around COVID-19 references. Phishing is the act of sending mass emails that are meant to look like they come from legitimate sources but contain malware or dangerous links attempting to trick you into opening them and giving up private data or allowing access to computer systems. Some examples of phishing email subject lines were given such as: Feeling helpless against Corona?, Get your coronavirus supplies while they last, Military source exposes shocking TRUTH about Coronavirus. Emails may contain links to try to gain access to banking data and some have even received phone calls claiming they have tested positive for COVID-19 and need to provide their banking credentials.

No matter if we are connecting to family from home isolation or working from home keeping business going, these digital pandemic threats affect users and companies alike. A company like Google has made note of the increase in threats on the security frontlines. Keeping up with their regular blocking of phishing and malware emails in their Gmail system, Gmail Security shared that in a single week recently they saw ”18 million daily malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19”. Organizations large and small are suffering the same with so many shifting to working from home. NASA officials were forced to issue a memo when they realized so many malicious links were being clicked and exposing employees to threats after an exponential increase in malware attacks on NASA systems. Helping users distinguish between fact and fiction has become just another part of the measures being taken to respond to the pandemic. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) created a Coronavirus Rumor Control webpage to share guidelines and dispel myths. The most important frontline in this crisis, healthcare, is experiencing its own digital challenges as well. Ransomware threats are up as health IT systems in hospitals and with staff working at home leave networked vulnerabilities exposed. Microsoft reports that it is helping place focus on hospitals that “need protecting from attacks that can prevent access to critical systems, cause downtime, or steal sensitive information”.

Threats to your data 101010 are out there but you can take steps to protect yourself.
These data security threats aren’t too different from the regular attempts and risky emails that many of us see but with the new coronavirus twist. Tips from cybersecurity agencies follow our usual recommendations:
  • make sure you have the latest software patches and security updates on your system,
  • use passwords that are strong/unique,
  • and further secure sensitive personal information sources with two-factor authentication.

The frontlines of this crisis are not only about public health challenges but maintaining our digital vigilance in the face of rising data threats in uncertain times where having full and secure access to our data is not only important to keep our lives moving but also in the data-driven fight against the pandemic. Keep yourself and your data safe!

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Category: helpful hints, data loss prevention

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