Cybercrime rates surge during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coronavirus has influenced almost every area of our lives. It’s mostly visible in business as restrictions make it harder every day for people to do things as they have always have done. To avoid losing money, they change the ways they operate.
Unfortunately, this also means that they face new threats, some of which they aren’t prepared for.
During the pandemic, many of us are forced to stay at home. Thus, companies need to allow their employees to work remotely to survive. For many, this is the first time working away from their office. Such a huge change means not everyone will adapt, which creates a perfect opportunity for cybercriminals.
Cybercrime rates are increasing.
According to an INTERPOL report, during just one four-month period between January and April, there were over 900,000 spam messages sent, 737 malware-related incidents, and almost 50,000 malicious URLs related to COVID-19. Because of its international nature, criminals can use it anywhere in the world and still expect results, whether it’s by phishing or other activities that they use to deceive you. But, dangers aren’t limited to fake links.
Working from home is less secure.
Because many of us have switched to working from home, we often find ourselves using less secure networks than those at our regular places of work. The laptop your employee gave you most likely has good antivirus software installed, but, unfortunately, it’s often not enough to stop those with malicious intentions from stealing whatever’s on your device.
The way you access the Internet is through a router. It’s that device that ultimately connects to the Internet and exchanges data with your computer. There’s a common way to take advantage of the way this system works, called a man-in-the-middle attack, where a cybercriminal places themselves between you and the router, intercepting everything you send or receive, including but not limited to the websites you visit, files you download and, most importantly, your passwords.
But I’m safe
You may think that you’re protected from those kinds of attacks, but you most likely are mistaken. If you have antivirus software, it won’t protect you from people intercepting your connections. That’s because those attacks are different and therefore require a different kind of protection that you most likely don’t use. What’s even worse is that you’re not alone as many people forget about this crucial aspect of cybersecurity.
There are no safe networks.
You may think that your network is secure. It’s probably true at your workplace where the IT staff are continually working to ensure safety. However, at your home or a coffee shop, there isn’t anybody to check it, and therefore, those networks remain vulnerable. It’s especially true in public places where virtually anyone can access the network, thus gaining full access.
How to protect yourself?
The way to protect yourself from man-in-the-middle attacks would be to do something with your data so that it doesn’t go directly between you and the router where it can easily be intercepted. Luckily, there’s a tool that does just that, and it’s called a virtual private network. You’ve probably heard about it as it’s been getting more and more popular recently. Still, many people have no idea how it works, let alone use it.
What’s a VPN?
A VPN, or a virtual private network, is a piece of software that connects you to a server that can be located anywhere in the world. Through that server, you connect to the Internet, meaning there’s no way the data you send or receive can be intercepted. Although it works exactly as your local network does, the information is not visible to anybody who places themselves in the middle of that connection, making it fully secure.
How do I start?
If you’d like to protect yourself from this type of threat, a free safe VPN is the best choice. We’re living in the era of the Internet, so there are multiple options you can pick from. What differentiates them is how much data they allow you to send or receive, how many servers you can connect to and where they’re located, and, most importantly, whether you have to pay for the software.
The bottom line
While having your data stolen through a wi-fi network sounds scary, there’s a simple way to stay safe from those kinds of attacks, and you can do it absolutely for free. We encourage you to protect not only yourself but also others by installing VPN software on your device. Even if you don’t need it now, it may turn out to be useful someday, so it’s always a good idea to keep it on your machine.
Donald Korinchak is a Cybersecurity Professional in the Washington DC area. Donald holds an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh Katz School of Business. Donald is considered a thought leader in business, leadership, and cybersecurity issues.