Working from home? Why experts say you’re more at greater risk for malware attacks

Cybersafety experts said that the rush to go remote led to a major jump in ransomware attacks.

ORLANDO, Fla. — When stay-at-home orders went into place in March, many companies scrambled to figure out ways to allow employees to work from home.

Now, cybersafety experts said that the rush to go remote led to a major jump in ransomware attacks.

Congressional leaders are now asking for a federal point-of-contact for cybersecurity investigations.

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Whether working remotely, navigating distance learning, or simply trying again and again to access the state’s unemployment website, it’s fair to say our at-home systems have been put to the test over the last two months.

“These are very stressful times, people are trying to adapt the best they can, and they’re trying to work in ways they’ve never worked,” information security expert Ean Meyer said.

Meyer and fellow IT guru Jack Norman said small businesses are especially vulnerable to malware attacks right now.

“You’ve got a lot of people trying to figure it out as they go, and they don’t have that dedicated resource,” Norman said.

But not even major corporations with dedicated IT resources are immune to being targeted during this pandemic. Software and security company VMWare Carbon Black released an analysis in mid-April, showing at the same time as an estimated 70% increase in people working from home, there was a 148% increase in ransomware attacks.

“There are a lot of attackers taking advantage of the fact that they know everybody's working from home, and they're not keeping their systems up to date because it isn't as easy to keep things up to date when you're remote, rather than having everyone on the same network in an office environment,” Norman said.

Even if you use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, it doesn't mean you're automatically secure. The Department of Homeland Security put out a warning last month urging organizations to make sure a flaw was patched after attackers exploited it amid the pandemic.

Norman and Meyer said, in general, patches to protect your system should be installed right away. Beyond that, these experts say you should avoid using personal laptops or iPads to conduct work business. It sounds simple but turning on two-factor authentication can make it harder for hackers to access your information.

“Implementing things like that really takes your security to the next level,” Norman said.

And what about all those new apps we have downloaded to communicate with our colleagues? The experts say early-on "Zoom bombs" show how important it is for all of us to read policies and do a little research before each download.

“People are having to get different apps, and am I going to tell you they’re all safe? No, absolutely not,” Meyer said. “Am I going to tell you the risk is probably OK? Potentially, yeah.”