With companies temporarily closing their offices and with more people working from home with company data because of the Wuhan coronavirus, hackers are likely to take advantage of the situation, said cyber security experts.
Government officials from the United States and Britain along with others have warned on the cyber security dangers of working remotely from home.
The number of requests for supporting remote workforces have jumped 10-fold in the last few weeks, said Cisco Systems Inc.
“People who have never worked from home before are trying to do it and they are trying to do it at scale,” said Wendy Nather, a senior advisor with Cisco’s Duo Security who has spent the past decade working from home for various jobs.
The sudden transition could potentially mean more scope for mistakes, which will apply more pressure on information technology staff, and more opportunity for cyber criminals who are hoping to trick employees into forking over their passwords.
Cyber criminals are using password-stealing messages and malicious software as Wuhan coronavirus-themed alerts, warnings, or apps.
Researchers have also found hackers masquerading as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in order to break into emails or swindle users out of bitcoin; others have spotted hackers using virus-themed app to hijack Android phones.
Corporate espionage spies also appear to be exploiting the Wuhan coronavirus which has gone pandemic.
Last week, researchers at Check Point, an Israeli company, discovered suspected state-backed hackers using a booby-trapped coronavirus update to try and break into unidentified Mongolian government network.
Last week on Friday, U.S. cyber security officials released an advisory warning companies to update their Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and be on guard against a surge of malicious emails aimed at an already disoriented workforce.
On Tuesday, Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre issued a six-page leaflet for businesses managing remote employees.
Corporate spies, hackers and cyber criminals are aware of the work-from-home trend “and they are doing what they can to use it to infiltrate into organizations,” said Esti Peshin, head of the cyber division at state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, Israel’s largest defense contractor.
With workers moving from professionally managed corporate networks to home WiFi based setups that are protected with basic passwords, the opportunities for hackers are huge at this point of time.
Working from home also exposes employees to low-tech threats, including theft or loss of electronic equipment or plain human error by employees adjusting to a new environment.
The new work-from-home employees situation is a boon hackers who could masquerade as tech support, as they try and impersonate IT technicians in their effort to gain access and control of the target’s computer.