People working from home during coronavirus crisis at risk of HACKING

People working from home during coronavirus crisis are at greater risk of being HACKED due to weak computer security settings, expert warns

  • Remotely accessing sensitive business data causes cybersecurity risks
  • Home-based workers are likely to be using less secure computer settings
  • Hackers can take advantage of this to get inside company networks 
  • Dr Asma Adnane from Loughborough Uni advises using a VPN to encrypt data
  • Anyone planning to work from home should speak to their IT department first

Working from home to prevent the spread of coronavirus is putting workers at increased risk of being hacked, an expert has warned. 

Being outside the office and without access to a secure local network means devices are provided with weak security settings.  

These vulnerabilities can expose sensitive data and work-related information to criminals, says Dr Asma Adnane from Loughborough University. 

She advises companies and staff members to check their security settings with their IT department as more firms mandate employees work remotely to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

The virus has infected almost 100,000 people around the world, including 116 in the UK, and killed more than 3,300 people.  

Dr Adnane advises using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which encrypts data travelling between a user’s computer and the work network. 

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People working from home are less likely to be using less secure computer settings, making them more vulnerable to hackers, according to a cybersecurity expert

Coronavirus has infected almost 100,000 people around the world, including 116 in the UK, and killed more than 3,300 people

‘Working from home might be convenient and safer for you, but this might not be safer for the services and the data you are accessing remotely, especially if you are handling sensitive or personal data,’ she said.

‘There are many cybersecurity implications while working from home, you are basically connected to internet via an open and maybe non-secured networks – home WiFi or any public WiFi – so all services and files you are accessing become at high risk of attack.

‘Cybersecurity threats are generally higher as you are not connected via the secured workplace networks, which have adequate security measures that you do not see such as web filtering, firewall and encryption of data.

‘Indeed, if you access sensitive data through unsafe networks, your connections could be intercepted, and the data compromised.’

Shoppers should pay using contactless cards to avoid catching the coronavirus from a dirty banknote, health experts have said.

A spokesman for the World Health Organization said contactless cards could ‘reduce the risk of transmission’.

Notes change hands hundreds or even thousands of times during circulation and can pick up all manner of dirt and bugs as they’re passed around.

Experts say the coronavirus could latch onto currency in the same way that it is able to live on hard surfaces like doorknobs, handrails and toilet handles.

So using contactless cards – which mean someone only has to touch their own card, which is never handled by anyone else – could protect them from it spreading.

The advice comes as employers have reportedly started to ban hot-desking, when people share desks; and, in France, ministers have told people to stop doing ‘la bise’, the traditional cheek-kiss greeting.

Dr Adnane said anyone working remotely needs to ensure they do not leave devices unlocked when in public spaces such as trains or coffee shops.

The computer science lecturer and cybersecurity expert also urges people to take care when reading work emails on their smartphones or other devices.

She said: ‘The security risk is even higher as well if you are not using the corporate machine to connect remotely.

‘In fact, corporate machines are usually up to date with the required security level: patched and updated software and operating system, encrypted hard drive, automatic screen lock and so on.

‘Imagine people accessing their work email from their phone, it will be harder to spot phishing emails as they can’t have a good view of the email and the link or attachment in it.

‘Another example is if they are accessing services or files from a malware-infected machine, malware could easily access sensitive data and even spread in the corporate network.’

Dr Adnane said those working remotely should liaise with their IT department and take any training offered by their employer around cybersecurity.

She urged workers to use a VPN whenever working from home as well as multi-factor authentication to log in to work-related services. 

People should also regularly check for software and security updates on their devices to ensure they are always fully protected, she added.

‘Finally, employees are usually the weakest link in cybersecurity, so make sure you do the required training to keep you aware and on track of the cyber-security measures and guidelines in place,’ she said.

VICTIMS LOSE £800,000 TO CORONAVIRUS SCAMS 

Fraudsters are cashing in on the coronavirus crisis, with victims’ losses totalling more than £800,000 in a month.

One person told police they had lost more than £15,000 after buying protective face masks which were never delivered.

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has already identified 21 reports of fraud where coronavirus was mentioned since February.

Police are warning numbers of scams are set to rise as the deadly virus spreads across the world.

The figure includes ten scams where victims tried to buy protective masks from fraudsters.

Other reports involved coronavirus-themed phishing emails designed to trick people into opening malicious attachments or revealing sensitive information.

A common tactic used by scammers is to send messages purporting to be from research groups linked with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

They claim to be able to provide a list of people infected with Covid-19, which links to a malicious website or ask the victim to make a payment in Bitcoin.

The City of London Police advised: ‘Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal or financial details.’

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