5 ways to improve cyber security through the COVID-19 pandemic

UNSW Business School cyber security expert Dr Yenni Tim explains the relevance of cyber security during a pandemic and outlines five steps employees and organisations should take to protect critical business information

This is not the first time cyber criminals have taken advantage of a high profile event around the world. What makes the current situation very challenging are the dramatic changes that are undergoing in our professional and personal lives.

Now an unprecedented number of people are working from home. And many are doing so for the first time outside of company firewalls and isolated from the office environment.

In addition to that we are also distracted, not only trying to cope with our work and an uncertain feature, but also taking care of ourselves and our loved ones. Ultimately, we are all spending much more time on our computers and mobile devices. All these factors have created a larger range of factors for cyber criminals to exploit.

So having a fundamental knowledge on cyber security is essential to protect ourselves and others, not only during this difficult time but also after the pandemic is over. The changes we are facing now are likely to have an impact long after the crisis is over, and cyber criminals may continue to take advantage of our new reality.

So what can we do? Just as we all have an important role to play in this pandemic, everyone has a role in creating a cyber safe society. And here are five simple steps to get started.

Be wary of instructions coming through emails, text messages, phone calls that require you to click on a link, open an attachment or provide login details and to transfer funds. When in doubt, do not action directly; do a search to verify information. Reporting a scam is also a great way to help the larger community. A malicious website can be blocked or taken down quickly and the scam can be flagged and made known to the public to protect everyone else. If you are getting scams through your business account, report them to the organisation. If it is through your personal account or phone number, you could also go to scamwatch.gov.au to report the scam.

Secondly, make sure you have strong passwords for all the accounts and use a different one for each account. Setting strong passwords doesn't have to be daunting, you can use a sequence of three random words and these long pass phrases are not only secure but also easy to remember. Turn on two-factor authentication whenever possible.

Next, always update your software. Software updates are often released to fix known vulnerabilities. So set up automatic updates whenever possible. Make sure to also regularly backup all your critical data. Follow the recommendations provided by your organisation when working remotely. 

A few key points to note would be to use only the recommended software in your organisation's toolbox, securing the home network and do not be tempted to download unfamiliar software, which may seem to offer quick fixes for issues that you may face during remote working.

Lastly, look after each other. We should protect other technology users, for example elderly people who are less familiar with technology and unsuspecting children who are not spending much more time online. Share with them what is happening and offer them your support. 

Stay safe everyone.

For more information, read about the most common COVID-19 cyber scams (and 4 ways to avoid them) or contact Dr Yenni Tim directly.


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