May 06

Industry Insights

Government Agencies not immune to the surge in cyber attacks

Governments around the world are all currently locked into the battle against the coronavirus but unfortunately that is not the only type of virus that poses a threat. They have also had to defend themselves against a surge in hacking attempts.

Like most businesses many government agencies have had to move large quantities of their staff to a remote working environment. Cyber criminals are capitalising on the potential of insecure networks and many devices logging on remotely by launching wave after wave of attempted cyber attacks. Government agencies as much as private business are a target.

Here are a few of the hacking attempts on government agencies in recent weeks.

Global Health Organisations

Health organisations at national and international level have reported attempted cyber hacks, often in a bid to interrupt their response to the fight against the virus. A recent attack leaked thousands of email account passwords from some of the world’s largest health agencies including the WHO (World Health Organisation) and the CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention). According to reports the hacker was a conspiracy theorist with theories around the origin of COVID 19.

WHO workers have also reported many phishing attempts targeted to them via voice, email, text and online messaging services.

National Benefit Websites

The rate of unemployment has skyrocketed over the last few months and unemployment benefit websites have become a prime target for hackers. Their increased importance plus the very sudden and rapid increase in numbers has opened them to vulnerabilities that hackers choose to exploit. Previously these websites weren’t as critical to a country’s ability to move forward as they are today so they may have been under resourced and lacking in cyber readiness.

Cyber attacks

Increase in eLearning

Children all over the world have been continuing their studies online since schools closed. Massive numbers use platforms such as google classroom, Zoom and MS Teams to communicate and share information with teaching staff. Many children have to reply on personal devices in the home for access which are traditionally more insecure and not regularly patched and updated. Pupils and parents are at risk of phishing attempts purporting to be links to virtual classrooms and other similar scams. A rise in social engineering attacks on schools have risen since COVID 19 hit. Social engineering involves the manipulation of people to give up personal information to enable the criminal to pose as a trusted contact such as a teacher.

Interestingly the number of ransomware attacks have fallen over these last few weeks. The likely reason being the criminals are now preoccupied with finding ways of exploiting the COVID emergency. However some experts have suggested that perhaps some hackers actually realise that criminal pursuit a time of global crisis on the scale of COVID 19 is inappropriate and are choosing to show some restraint. The jury is out on it.

The over riding advice for anyone accessing networks and the internet in general at this time is to be very cautious of suspicious activity. Don’t respond to email requests that you find a bit unusual, don’t click on links if you aren’t sure they are legitimate and report any suspicious behaviour to your IT Department.

For IT Managers make use of the many IT Security firms out there who know the best methods to enable secure remote working. As this situation looks to go on for many months yet you would be best not to leave anything to chance. Managed Security Service Providers can very quickly and easily enable your business for secure access to systems and data for a geographically dispersed workforce.

Contact us if you have any cyber security concerns.