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Cyber Security During COVID-19

6 Apr 2020
Niall Bree

As if we’ve not got enough to deal with, it seems COVID-19 has provided hackers with the prime opportunity to scale up their attacks and increase the misery.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, on 24th March, talked of just such a ramp-up in cybercrime due to the onset of Coronavirus.

They follow us online and exploit our concerns about coronavirus. Our fear becomes their business opportunity.

said Ursula von der Leyen, EU Observer.

With some form of lockdown now being enforced in various countries across the world, homeworking has increased exponentially. It is putting enormous strain on the security systems of many companies.

Hackers target healthcare

Unfortunately, the hackers are indiscriminate in their attacks. It seems a number of health organisations are being targeted which has a potential impact on life.

A group targeted Hammersmith Medicines Research (HMR), who were working on trials for COVID-19 vaccines. They proceeded to publish the personal details of thousands of former patients as the HMR wouldn’t pay the ransom demands.

Other hackers have directly targeted hospitals. They use ransomware through email, locking staff out of systems until a ransom is paid.

Locking hospitals out of their critical systems will not only delay the swift medical response required during these unprecedented times, but it could also directly lead to deaths

said Jurgen Stock, Interpol Secretary-General

Stay Safe

So, with this in mind, the European cybersecurity agency ENISA and the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) have issued some guidance for employers and employees to keep themselves and their companies safe. Here are a few of their suggestions.

Managing security for employees homeworking:

  • Make sure you have anti-virus in place and it is updated
  • Think about your back-up strategy. It is good practice to make sure any important files are backed up regularly. In the office, it can become a little too easy to rely on your IT team to manage this. Well, now it’s your turn. Don’t fall foul of ransomware, back-up all vital files.
  • Check your WIFI connection to make sure it is secure as possible. Most are but some older ones enable others to check your traffic.
  • Check if you have encryption tools installed


Advice for employers

  • Provide some guidelines on how to react if there is a problem. This should include; a rota for who is on call, when they can call and the emergency procedures.
  • Define a clear procedure to follow in the case of a security incident.
  • Think about restricting access to sensitive data
  • Be vigilant. This is so important. There will be a lot of content distributed around Coronavirus and you need to be very clear about the source before you open any link.
  • Make sure you change your password regularly and that it is suitably complex including, number letters, symbols and capitalisation.



It is unfortunate that these opportunistic, but unscrupulous criminals have chosen a global pandemic to further pedal their despicable ways. But where there are weakness and vulnerability there is criminality.

Please stay safe and secure and take all possible steps to maintain the integrity of your systems.


Niall Bree
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