Coronavirus: How hackers are exploiting the epidemic to steal your information

February 28, 2020

The full video interview with Rasmus Holst originally published in February, 2020 can be found on ZDNet.

Rasmus interview with techrepublic

COVID-19, the coronavirus that has the world on edge, is bringing another threat to our doorsteps –hackers. TechRepublic's Karen Roby spoke with Rasmus Holst, Chief Revenue Officer at Wire, about the ways that hackers can exploit people's interest in the disease to attack your business. The following is an edited exerpt of their conversation.

Karen Roby: Is it possible the coronavirus could increase our risk for a cyberattack?

Rasmus Holst: It is our job just to pass along information to people, give people things to think about, especially at a time like right now. We're hearing so much information, different things coming in from different outlets about the coronavirus and what we need to keep in mind. So let me connect the dots here between coronavirus and cybersecurity.

Let's first at least say that cybersecurity is a problem whatever happens. It's a $6 trillion loss to businesses and governments every year. It's 3% of our global GDP. So, in essence, the coronavirus just does a couple of things for how we react as human beings to a crisis. We tend to increase our awareness and therefore be more interested in information that's coming our way. And that, of course, looking at something like phishing attacks, increases the risk that your employees might actually jump right into something they think is information about the coronavirus. And yet, it is a phishing attack used by malicious actors who know the psychology of people. And as the barriers for an awareness of getting information in increases, they actually use that as the underlying marketability to get in and hack your network.

Karen Roby: And when we talk about, Rasmus, psychology, we know that a lot of people are on edge right now just waiting to hear, is this something that they need to be concerned with? Is it something that their company may be sending down directives for?

Rasmus Holst: Take the example of coming to work: You know there's coronavirus. Your CEO sends out an email, "This is how we should respond to the crisis." It has a link there to read the policy, how you would get to work and all those kinds of things. The only thing that's not true about that is that this email was never ever sent by your CEO. It was sent by malicious actors, similar to a normal phishing attack. You would be prone to click that because you think it's information you shall have, you shall understand, you shall be aware of, and therefore you will click it. It's an easy way for malicious actors to now use that, "I need the information," to get into your network.

Karen Roby: We were talking earlier, too, about how remote workers, how this could be, how they could play into this.

Rasmus Holst: I think the coronavirus just underpins another trend that we see in the market, and I think most boards and executives right now, they go back and say, "Do we actually have a proper strategy for the remote workplace? Do we have video conferencing in place? Do we have collaboration platforms in place? Do we have secure, outside-our-network perimeter collaboration tools in place? Are all of these things in place so that we can continue to work even if we didn't come back into the workplace? And can the business function without an actual office?"

But again, if we look at it in the shape of the coronavirus, it is not something that the pandemic created. It amplified the need for the remote workplace, but it's already an underlying trend in how we go to work, how we perform our daily tasks. I think in North America, more than 50% of knowledge workers have at least one day out of the office every week. So, most companies are prepared. Now, all of a sudden, you just have a full population outside of your firewall, and you need to understand how you'd deal with that and keep the productivity of the business going even if you have to resort to drastic measures and not have people in the office given a situation like the coronavirus.

Wire CEO, Morten Brøgger, added:

“The coronavirus epidemic is surely set to be one the biggest experiments in remote working history - and companies need to be prepared for the security implications associated with employees working from various locations, often via unsecured Wi-Fi networks."

In truth, however, for companies of any scale, it’s not about just being prepared for a global pandemic, it’s about being prepared for the future. The biggest challenge of a mobile workforce is ensuring the integrity of company data outside the four walls of a physical office, its firewalls and secure internet access. Digital assets are the lifeblood of an organisation. Without them, there is no product, no service, no sales.

Over the course of the working day, we are constantly accessing confidential and sensitive proprietary information. Creating a secure working environment regardless of employees’ locations is therefore absolutely essential to prevent data breaches and protect said intellectual property (IP) in contemporary enterprises.

About Wire

Wire is the most secure collaboration platform, transforming the way businesses communicate in the same way and speed that its founders disrupted telephony with Skype. Headquartered in Switzerland with offices in Berlin and San Francisco, Wire launched its collaboration and communications platform for businesses in early 2018 and today counts over 700 enterprise customers, making Wire the fastest-growing collaboration platform. Wire offers messaging, voice, video, file-sharing, and search, all protected by end-to-end encryption. Wire’s product suite has been recognised by both Forrester and Gartner as one of the most effective and secure communications platforms. Wire is consistently delivering ground-breaking innovation from a unique “message fortress” architecture to encrypted video conferencing, guest rooms and Messaging Layer Security (MLS).

Start securely collaborating today with a free 30-day trial of Wire.

Back to all posts