Health care firms, especially those involved in vaccine and treatment research, are prime targets.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

July 20, 2020

10 Slides

The onslaught of COVID-19 data breaches has left a trail of victims, both businesses and individuals, globally.

And the volume is unlikely to drop as the pandemic rages on.

People, especially early on in the pandemic, were looking for any pieces of information they could find. That’s according to Heather Paunet, Untangle‘s senior vice president of product management.

Keep up with resources for supporting partners and customers during the COVID-19 crisis.


Untangle’s Heather Paunet

“People were signing up for news alerts, oftentimes not checking the validity of a site, giving away their personal information without thinking twice,” she said. “In looking for information or some way to navigate through the pandemic, people were also purchasing large quantities of household staples without any due diligence. For example, on Amazon, you can purchase items in bulk, and many times this is where people went for masks, paper goods, food items. But if they are not careful, [malicious hackers] can create false shopping pages, gaining access to payment information with no intention of delivering items purchased.”

Jessica Couto is vice president of North America channels at Vectra AI. She said it’s obvious that pandemic operating conditions haven’t made anything easier for network defenders.


Vectra AI’s Jessica Couto

“Traditional IT management and legacy security controls are farther removed from mobile assets,” she said. “And continued stress and anxiety among staff have increased susceptibility to social engineering attacks; in fact, the increased risk of fraud related to the operating environment of COVID-19 is deemed significant enough that it was specifically mentioned as a justifying factor for the U.S. Secret Service’s newly created Cyber Task Force.”

Webroot shared the following disturbing pandemic-related trends:

  • Two percent of all COVID-19 websites created in past few months were malicious.

  • There has been a 2,000% increase in malicious files with Zoom in their name.

  • A 40% increase in unsecured remote desktop protocol (RDP) machines for remote working. With unsecured RDP, cybercriminals will use brute force to gain complete control of the machine. Unsecured RDP isn’t new, but during the pandemic, the attack area surface is only continuing to grow.

Jason Hicks is Kudelski Security‘s global CISO. He said the pandemic has made health care firms priority targets for malware. That’s especially true for those involved in vaccine and treatment research, Hicks believes.


Kudselski’s Jason Hicks

“They feel like these firms would be more willing to pay if they are successfully compromised due to the high pressure environment they operate in,” he said. “An additional enticement for targeting these firms could determine which organization is having success during their vaccine or treatment testing. This would appeal to criminal groups from an investment perspective. If you knew ahead of time one of these firms had approval to release a vaccine or treatment, their stock price would skyrocket after the announcement.”

It’s also appealing for nation-states that don’t mind being shady, Hicks said. For example, say a country wants to produce its own treatment or vaccine without paying the firm that developed it.

A new TransUnion study shows phishing is the top digital fraud scheme related to the pandemic globally.

“From the impacts of phishing and other well-documented COVID-19 scams like unemployment fraud, it’s clear that fraudsters have the data and increasing opportunities to create synthetic identities and utilize stolen identities,” said Shai Cohen, TransUnion’s senior vice president of global fraud and identity solutions. “Identity fraud is a primary way fraudsters leverage stolen consumer data from phishing and other social engineering schemes. It can have long-term impacts for consumers such as the compromise of multiple online accounts and bringing down credit scores, which we anticipate will increase during pandemic reconstruction.”

MSSPs Can Help

Consider MSSPs a “force multiplier” in protecting organizations, Couto said. That’s particularly true for those that offer managed detection and response (MDR) services.

“But organizations should still recognize that MSSPs themselves may be adjusting to pandemic operating conditions,” she said. “It’s critical that organizations do their due diligence, and don’t just shop for big names, but also evaluate the specific set of capabilities that they need, and whether those are best delivered through a big-box or boutique player.  Additionally, it’s critical that organizations are as adamant about measuring MSSP key performance indicators as they are about measuring their own.”

Successful enterprises, Couto added, aren’t just measuring mean time to detect; “they’re measuring the mean time to action and mean time to resolve.”

Scroll through our slideshow above outlining 10 COVID-19 data breaches.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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