In April 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a fivefold increase in the number of cyberattacks against its systems during the COVID-19 pandemic. As well as leaking credentials, including email addresses and passwords, hackers had impersonated the WHO’s internal email system to request donations from the general public.1
Cybersecurity vulnerabilities in digital infrastructures
While cyberattacks against the healthcare industry are, sadly, nothing new, the worrying recent surge in malicious threats by attackers has highlighted the need amongst organizations of every size to take a zero-trust approach to infrastructure defense. Investing in good internal cybersecurity, embracing security by design, and ensuring employees are digitally literate – all these can minimize the cybersecurity vulnerabilities that compromise security
A perfect storm for cybercrime
Between January and April 2020, the share of the German workforce working from home increased from 12% to 26%. As well as expecting to continue enjoying non-stop access to a world of entertainment and information, a large number of people now suddenly needed reliable, secure access to company networks – every day.
And that number isn’t going to go down. Indeed, over the next five years, the number of connected devices is forecast to increase from 30 billion to 75 billion – and the more devices there are in a network, the more pleased the hackers will be. As Ralf Wintergerst, Group CEO of Giesecke+Devrient, says, “Corona is a major challenge for digital infrastructures. At the same time, it creates a new dynamic of digitalization. This is why we have to raise awareness of cybersecurity and increase our investments in digital infrastructures now.”
How strong are your digital infrastructures – really?
According to cybersecurity company McAfee, the global pandemic saw a sevenfold increase of cyberattacks on cloud services. Fifteen percent of employees received fake phishing mails, and over 90 fake news websites were created, purporting to offer emergency information about the virus.2 Faced with such shocking statistics, we’re forced to ask whether we’re equipped to rise to the challenge. Axel Deininger, CEO of secunet, emphasizes that this situation isn’t temporary – it’s here to stay. The coronavirus pandemic has simply brought into stark relief the necessity for every organization, of every size, to ensure it has the right security technology in place to protect potential flaws in its sensitive data.
Working from home is a trend that’s here to stay, virus or no virus. Employers can save on rent; employees can reduce travel; everyone’s carbon footprint can be smaller. But with the digital world now an inseparable part of our lives, it has become easier for attackers to exploit software vulnerability that results from decentralization and increased connectivity. During the pandemic, many companies reduced their security levels so that their employees could continue working on personal laptops, opening the door to malicious cyberattacks. And hackers don’t sit around waiting.
Preparation pays off
G+D’s primary objective is digital sovereignty to protect data against manipulation and sabotage, espionage, and crime. And the company also sees long-term change arising from the coronavirus crisis, especially the dynamic of digitalization. With lasting growth in technological innovation, and with the increased application of new software technology, there will inevitably be an equivalent surge in the exploitation of cybersecurity vulnerabilities by hackers.
So, what can we do to protect ourselves? As individuals, we need to change our mindset and start seeing cybersecurity as an enabler, not just as a series of annoying updates. And equally importantly, organizations need to understand the importance of designing their software with security in mind at the design stage of every new tech project, from the ground up. True, best-practice “security by design” requires careful, detailed planning before execution – but it’s time well spent. Adequately developed frameworks protect companies from cyberattacks; without it, they’re left vulnerable.
Digital infrastructures are our future
Looking to the future, Ralf Wintergerst, Group CEO of G+D, sees five trends that will have a significant impact on digital infrastructures, sovereignty, and security. As infrastructures move towards the cloud; as systems, new and old, are increasingly connected; as the amount of IoT data increases through cloudification, requiring more AI algorithms and machines that speak to each other; as ever more powerful computers and quantum computing threaten digital security and sovereignty, requiring stronger data protection through new cryptography; and as data storage increasingly happens locally, so that infrastructures and platforms start to deviate from agreed-upon, collective standards – then, more than ever, strong, secure IT, with maximum standardization, will be crucial to prevent cyberattacks.
Put bluntly, if we’re going to be able to ensure the survival of our economy and our society, we need to grow our networks dramatically. As Ralf Wintergerst says, we need to see cybersecurity as an opportunity, not as a necessary evil. This is our chance to make the digital infrastructures, on which we increasingly rely, more secure.
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