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In Trying Times Business Rules Can Relax, But Cybersecurity Cannot

As we work our way through the current global crisis, technology is helping reduce the risk of exposure for millions of people by providing flexibility in traditional work rules. While that flexibility makes perfect sense in these unusual circumstances, one area where we can’t relax is cybersecurity.

Many industrial companies may have limited or suspended their operations during the pandemic, but still have many workers doing their jobs from home. Then there are companies that have been deemed essential because they provide critical supplies like food, medicine and critical infrastructure services. These companies also have many remote workers that are essential to keeping operations running in these extraordinary times.

Whatever the state of your operations, your remote workforce is creating a larger attack surface for cybercriminals that must be addressed as part of your cybersecurity strategy.

The New Normal

Gartner reports that in a March 17, 2020 survey of 800 HR executives, that 88 percent of organizations have encouraged or required employees to work from home. FreeConferenceCall, a telecom service, says usage is up 2,000 percent in the U.S. and 4,322 percent in Italy. And the popular remote-conferencing provider Zoom has seen use of its services skyrocket to 200 million daily users from 10 million in December.

The increase in use has seen people using remote tools in unanticipated ways for both work and socializing, presenting unexpected challenges. Zoom’s recent growth has put it in the spotlight over its privacy and security issues. To its credit, Zoom has committed to fixing these issues before adding functionality, and the company is planning a comprehensive review using third parties to help ensure that it’s handling security properly.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has unleashed an unprecedented number of online scams. Cybercriminals are preying on broad swaths of the population that are working remotely, seeking medical information, shopping and socializing online.

Scammers have long piggybacked off major news events to trick people into clicking phishing links and downloading malicious software. And sadly, the coronavirus is proving to be just another opportunity for them to profit. Case in point: The number of emails using phony information about the virus to trick people into infecting their phones and computers has increased by 14,000 percent in just two weeks, according to a report from the IBM X-Force research division.

Is Your Remote Workforce Secure?

As your business operations bend or flex to get through this pandemic, your security must remain rigid.

Refocusing your cybersecurity approach to address the new and increased vulnerabilities introduced by an expanded remote workforce is important.

For companies, ensuring that security fundamentals are in place is imperative. Protect devices with an antivirus solution. Update programs and operating systems to help ensure vulnerabilities are patched. Make sure remote workers are trained to recognize phishing e-mails and the risks of downloading.

Individuals should secure home routers and Wi-Fi networks with passwords and use corporate services for e-mail and other work. Remote workers should ensure that conference platform default values are changed to achieve privacy.

Taking small steps now to be vigilant about cybersecurity can potentially prevent issues later. But this isn’t a time to panic. Just know that you are not alone. Rockwell Automation has teams and resources available to you during this trying time, and always. This is, however, a perfect time to ensure that your basic security protocols are being followed so you can focus on your business and workforce.


Steve Ludwig
Steve Ludwig
Commercial Programs Manager, Safety, Rockwell Automation
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