Covid-19: Computer threats arise from coronavirus crisis when working at home


A worker uses a desktop computer whilst working from home. The explosion of video conferencing can create a multitude of vulnerabilities, Sundermeier said. In addition to passwords being posted in view of the camera, participants can blurt out seemingly innocuous information that a cyber criminal can exploit. — Bloomberg

Malware expert Steven Sundermeier has a message: If you're working from home, you might ward off a Covid-19 infection, but you could be more susceptible to a computer virus.

"The threat is definitely greater," Sundermeier said recently. "It is very important for computer users to understand that cyber criminals are out there."

Sundermeier, owner of Medina-based anti-malware products company Thirtyseven4, said the coronavirus migration of office workers to home workstations opens up potential new risks. The company's products are used by more than 2,500 schools and universities in the US.

In one example, Sundermeier said he's seen a social media photo from an individual who forgot the password plastered on the side of his computer in the background. Cyber criminals salivate at such easy prey.

"They are looking for low-hanging fruit," he said.

An April 8 Microsoft report details how cyber criminals are altering existing attacks to take advantage of Covid-19 fears.

"They include potentially hundreds or thousands of malicious emails targeting hundreds or thousands of users," the report reads. "Of the millions of targeted messages we see each day, roughly 60,000 include Covid-19 related malicious attachments or malicious URLs."

The explosion of video conferencing can create a multitude of vulnerabilities, Sundermeier said. In addition to passwords being posted in view of the camera, participants can blurt out seemingly innocuous information that a cyber criminal can exploit.

"The mute button is your friend, the webcam is not," he said.

Sundermeier suggests creating a dedicated area for the home office, and to use common sense to protect your — and your company's — information. If a spouse or children use the same computer, it only helps increase the potential vulnerability.

Work emails accessed on the home computer may contain malware from key loggers to spyware, adware and ransomware. Use common sense, Sundermeier said.

"Email from unknown source — why would you click on it?" he said.

He suggests remembering the basics and applying them every time:

• Don't open emails you aren't familiar with.

• Don't open attachments from senders you don't know.

• Always shut off or lock down your computer after you are done.

• Don't post your password where others can see it.

• Use complex passwords. “There are tools available on the dark web that can crack every single word in Webster's dictionary in five minutes,” Sundermeier said.

• Make sure your updates are current.

• Install strong anti-virus software.

Initiating these steps will make a cyber criminal's job much more difficult, Sundermeier said.

“With everybody working from home, they are using that to target larger organisations,” Sundermeier said.

Installing malware on a computer to gain access to funds or information is increasingly a big business itself, operated by sophisticated individuals or organisations.

“Many still perceive the typical hacker as a pimple-faced teenager hiding in a basement,” he said. “This is white-collar crime.” — The Akron Beacon Journal/Tribune News Service

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