Worldwide fear and anxiety, coupled with social isolation, which is causing more people to work from home and rely on electronic communication, may increase vulnerability to cyberattacks—on individuals as well as their employers, according to cybersecurity expert David Simpson, from Virginia Tech.

“We are living in a heightened time of cyber risk. Cyber criminals will take advantage of public fear and due diligence health measures to generate coronavirus themed phishing attacks. We should be aware of unsolicited COVID-19 emails with specious links or attachments,” says Simpson.

In addition to scams that prey on people’s fear – the uncertainty and doubt regarding their own health – Simpson explains that the increased utilization of voice, video, and data to replace in person contact will open new threat vectors.

As many organizations shift to remote work environments, Simpson offers the following tips to avoid online scams.

Employees working from home for the first time will potentially use PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones that are not protected to the same level as workplace devices. Consider using additional risk reduction measures like document and file encryption, VPNs, regular scanning and other best practices to lower the potential for business intellectual property or financial theft.

Increased network traffic from massive telework can lead to network disruptions. Employee attempts at workarounds can incorrectly set up VPNs or not recognize traffic re-direct attacks. Distributed denial of service attacks can not only shutdown work functions but can also lead to less secure workarounds.

Companies should take steps to ensure their employees know where to call when suspicious events occur, staff up to handle non-standard helpdesk issues and err on the side of caution for IT environments they have little control over.

To read more, visit Virginia Tech.