As hardware resellers, distributors and vendors continue to grapple with supply chain disruption and low stock, cybersecurity specialists are seeing new challenges - and opportunities - thrown up by COVID-19.
Unprecedented numbers of employees across the country - and the globe - are adjusting to working remotely, giving cybersecurity specialists cause for concern at the number who may not be suitably trained should they be targeted by an attack.
Ian Turnbull, MD of Pentesec, said that getting people into secure environments seems to be the focus of many organisations, but that it throws up new challenges in terms of cybersecurity and employees unprepared for remote working.
"Our experience so far is that the initial challenges are about scaling operations to accommodate a shift in the way the corporate network will function - getting people into a safer environment seems to be the core focus for most businesses," he said.
"There are potential security challenges that may arise as a result of this. A number of vendors have spoken about human-focused security policies over the last few years and this can relate to EDR products and email security products, as well as basic cybereducation.
"Previously, most organisations would have planned for certain groups of workers to be equipped for (and trained for) remote working and now, unexpectedly, they might have remote workers who are not prepared for life beyond the corporate border either technologically or as a person and that in itself can present a set of challenges."
Jason Holloway, MD of Bridgeway Security Solutions, however, expressed concern about the overall impact COVID-19 will have on the channel, and reckons that cybersecurity will suffer just as much as other areas of the industry.
"I fear a global recession is coming and I believe that the majority of the channel will struggle hugely over the coming months and, perhaps, even for the next year," he said.
"[I think] a few organisations go to the wall on the back of this - and I don't just mean customer organisations. I can see a lot of resellers, and perhaps even some distributors, failing over the coming months. We have taken action to ensure that we are ready for whatever comes next, but I think that many will be overexposed.
"In terms of the cybersecurity market generally, I think we're going to see a slowdown in the medium term before this picks up and then becomes business as usual, going forward."
He added that cybersecurity spend will depend on how the different verticals react to the economic challenges caused by the pandemic, stating that travel, leisure and stock markets have already taken a massive financial hit from the outbreak.
"That overall economic slowdown will have an impact on the cybersecurity spend," he stated.
"I see [the cybersecurity boom from the increase in remote working] as very short-lived and temporary. I could imagine that over the next couple of months we may see a small spike - maybe a 10, 15 or perhaps 20 per cent increase.
"But over the rest of the year, I wouldn't be at all surprised if we actually see a decline of 30 per cent to 40 per cent in overall year spending on cybersecurity."
A boon for hackers
The global pandemic has resulted in a boon for teleconferencing and collaborative software vendors as organisations seek to minimise in-person meetings by requiring their staff to work remotely.
Kelvin Kirby, chief exec of Microsoft partner Technology Associates, speculated that this trend may attract cybercriminals who might seek to exploit security weaknesses in the software or the employee's disconnection from the company network.
"We may see a bit of a revolution, perhaps in videoconferencing. The next issue will be whether the internet stands up to that usage and whether hackers decide that they're going to take advantage of that approach," he said.
"They might hold the world to ransom because they see an opportunity to cash in on the current situation. Unscrupulous hackers might want to take advantage of that, particularly in the current situation where people are starting to rely on remote technologies and virtual conferencing. I don't know whether that's going to happen or not, but it wouldn't surprise me if it did."
Bridgeway's Holloway is somewhat in agreement with this assessment, saying that he has witnessed customers hurry to implement business continuity plans as they face a challenging few months. He voiced concerns that some haven't thought through their security processes beyond the next 30 days.
"Many of these business continuity plans rely on Windows devices that are typically domain-joined, which leads to an awkward question of what happens after the 30 days lapse - which typically requires these devices to be brought back into the corporate network and rebooted on that domain-joined network in order to carry on working," he explained.
"As a short-term business continuity plan, these are perfectly acceptable; but if the lockdown persists for more than 30 days, we may find a number of these business continuity plans failing. I think that's an underappreciated risk at this moment, and not one that many organisations are prepared for."
Something old, something new
Though hackers may seek to exploit the massive numbers of people using collaborative software and those working on potentially unsecured networks, one form of attack continues to be a favourite of cybercriminals: phishing.
Dan Bailey, director at cybersecurity specialist Altinet, said that he has had multiple customers approaching him with suspicious emails, purporting to be from official government agencies, health authorities and from senior management of the company.
Phishing emails claiming to be from HMRC are usually the most popular scam at this time of the year, he explained, but these have been replaced in popularity by emails exploiting the fear and uncertainty caused by the outbreak.
"In the last week or so we've been seeing a lot of phishing emails that are pretending to give directions on how to deal with the coronavirus," he said.
"It's a staff education piece as much as it is an email security piece. We're telling people to check the external sender tab because the biggest problem at the moment is that a lot of organisations are emailing their staff and giving them an update on how they're dealing with coronavirus."
While the HMRC emails are usually looking to steal money from the target, the coronavirus emails seek to steal credentials by asking the unwitting employee, Bailey added.
"One of the easiest things we are telling customers to do is to tell their employees to think twice before clicking, to check the full email address," he continued.
"Hackers are definitely going with what's popular, but I think the main concern is that the fear and uncertainty around coronavirus will get a much higher success rate."
Terry Greer-King, VP EMEA at SonicWall, echoed Bailey's concerns and said that staff have to be made "hyper aware" of their online interactions.
"Cybercriminals do their utmost to take advantage of trying times by tricking users into opening dangerous files, through what they consider to be trusted sources," he said.
"Signs to look out for are email communications from colleagues or bosses with "urgent" in the subject line - this will be particularly common as we log in to work from home in the coming weeks. These messages will be used by phishers to trick people into installing malware or to steal login information and gain direct access into your network."
Holloway agreed with Bailey's assessment that hackers often prey on the fears and concerns brought up by bad news stories and that traditional anti-virus solutions will combat these attacks, but he predicted that any surge in cybersecurity demand will not be immediate.
"From a consultancy services perspective, the cybersecurity uptick will come six or more months down the line," he stated.
"We are going to see some of the challenges in just relying on the Microsoft Office 365 protection. People will require something a little more mature and comprehensive, but I don't think we're going to see short-term purchases in these areas.
"Once the dust has settled, I think it's going to take quite a few months for people to then evaluate how well their business continuity plans coped with this particular outbreak, and whether there are any lessons to be learned or identified from that process to tweak and prepare for any future requirements."
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