Experts warn of impending global ‘Cyber Pandemic’

Pictoral representation of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted global working culture.

A recent survey by Checkpoint indicates that 95 per cent of security professionals are facing added IT security challenges due to the coronavirus.

The shifts were global, rapid, and widespread.

To this end, Dr. Adewale Obadare, cofounder, Digital Encode, has likened the coronavirus pandemic facing the world to an impending global cyber-attack described as Cyber Pandemic.

According to him, “people and organizations have suffered greatly from the coronavirus pandemic. Many critical lessons are being learned, but none more important than another devastating crisis could be brewing. A catastrophic cyber event has long been envisioned, and with today’s digitally connected world, a global cyber pandemic is now a reality.

“The coronavirus that the world is facing is biological pandemic but the next global crisis is going to be called ‘Cyber pandemic’.

“Cyber pandemic just the same way as coronavirus which is biological in nature, there is going to be a digital virus or cyber virus that is going to infiltrate a lot of computer systems globally.

“This is not to create fear for anyone. Don’t forget that as we gravitate through digital colonies using technology to drive our businesses and predominantly everything that we are involved in, there come so many risks. Just like during coronavirus pandemic, World Health Organisation comes out with best practices on what to do especially the issue of social distancing comes, the same way we have health best practices that we will have cyber hygiene. The same way you practice personal hygiene is how you will learn to practice cyber hygiene.

Obadare explained that to practice cyber hygiene starts with situation awareness that cybersecurity experts are creating, just like WHO is creating awareness about coronavirus.

“In cyber hygiene, you try to prevent your system from been digitally evaded, we talk about asset distancing just like human beings are practising physical distancing now.

“Asset distancing in the cybersecurity world means to put measured that will separate and protect your system, one of those measures is network segmentation for the corporates. You need to segment your enterprises and network environment making sure that the way your system relates to public internet does not put your system at risk.

“The only way to achieve this is to make sure that you have a good Patch management system this means that your system is up to date. Don’t use a system that has been declared the end of life.

“For instance, a lot of people are still using Windows XP and they are connected to the internet. Microsoft has declared the end of life for Windows XP.

If you are using Windows XP you are at risk and not practising cyber hygiene and with that, hackers can break into your system because you can’t practise Patch management with Windows XP. Depending on the platform that you are using,” he added.

Corroborating Obadare, Kenneth Okereafor, a Cybersecurity expert and Cyberspace defender, said that the “cyber pandemic” is already here with us.

“In every crisis including the COVID-19 pandemic, cyber-criminals are among the first to capitalize on fear, uncertainty, and doubt to exploit innocent victims. The cyberspace is currently hyperactive on account of increased patronage of online services occasioned by the COVID-19 restriction protocols.

“As a result, hackers and online fraudsters have taken advantage of the crisis to launch coordinated computer attacks using sophisticated combinations of social engineering and phishing emails to push ransomware and other exploits.

“This has resulted in identity theft, operational disruption, and revenue loss. In high profile cases such as the zoom-bombing episode in April and the 15th July Twitter hacks, the impacts could be scandalous,” he said.

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