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Shifting Roles for Cybersecurity Experts in the Wake of Coronavirus

Cybersecurity experts and professionals are normally responsible for keeping organizations safe in a digital world.  But a new study has revealed that the coronavirus pandemic has changed their jobs.

Security an essential function

A recent survey looked at how the need to maintain business operations in the shadow of coronavirus has changed employees’ jobs. The survey also showed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cybersecurity professionals.

As many as 81% of the respondents agreed that their companies see security as an essential function during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Nevertheless, many companies have moved their cybersecurity professionals to other areas. About half of the respondents have been taken off some or all of their typical security duties to help with other IT tasks. These include equipping a newly-mobile workforce.

Over 15% of the respondents revealed that their information security team does not have the resources necessary to support a remote workforce.


The Perfect Storm: Remote Work and Decreased Cybersecurity


Remote work is popular in the wake of the Coronavirus.  90% of respondents’ organizations have moved to remote work-from-home policies and closed their physical work environments for employees. Nearly half  said that working from home is allowed for all employees.  49% said that some employees are working remotely.

The work-from-home trend and the changes to the jobs of cybersecurity professionals offer reason for concern. 23% of the survey-takers said that cybersecurity incidents experienced by their company had hiked since the shift to remote work. Some experts say that the cyberattacks have doubled since the transition.


COVIDcast Maps: Academia and the Private and Public Sectors


Technology can help in the battle for public health.  Academia and the private sector, including social media companies, can play a role in making it available.

The Delphi Research Group at Carnegie Mellon University created a tool to track the prevalence of COVID-19 in the United States: Its COVIDcast maps cover over 601 counties in the U.S.

The data sources for the map include Google searches, Facebook surveys, doctor visits, search trends, and the influenza lab tests statistics.

Use of COVIDcast Maps

A COVIDcast researcher said that millions of responses to the Carnegie Mellon surveys by Google and Facebook users provide the team with real-time estimates of the activity of the coronavirus.

The survey results provide real-time indications of the activity of the deadly disease, which was not available previously from any other source.

These maps can help governments decide where to direct the resources like PPE (personal protective equipment), kits, and medicines.


Cooperation with Tech Companies

The map demonstrates that academia, the private sector and the public sector can work together.  Private sector tech companies like Google and Facebook, as well as private sector labs, provided the raw data for researchers to process and analyse. As a result, public health authorities have an additional tool at their disposal for making decisions about the distribution of public resources against the disease.

Additionally, social media companies can propagate the data as part of an effort to put out accurate, professional information about the coronavirus. For example, Facebook has featured the COVIDcast maps on its site.





Hospitals Must Improve Security to Combat Cyber Attacks

Cyber criminals see health care facilities as easy prey because they often don’t have great security infrastructure in place to prevent or combat cybercrime. INTERPOL’s Cybercrime Threat Response team recently said that it detected a significant increase in the number of cyber-attacks against “key organizations and infrastructure engaged in the virus response.”

Hospitals ill-equipped to combat ransomware attacks

The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee recently said that most hospital systems are generally ill-equipped to manage data breaches and ransomware incidents, even before the coronavirus.

The situation is worse right now because hospitals are fighting COVID-19 with even fewer resources and time to combat cyberattacks. Currently, hospitals require a great deal of support from security organizations and the government to protect them against cyberattacks.

INTERPOL Issued a Purple Notice

INTERPOL said that the threat of cyberattacks is not limited to only one country. Last month, it issued a Purple Notice to its 194 member countries, warning about cybercriminals’ use of ransomware worldwide.

Several hospitals have already fallen victim to ransomware attacks.  One recent example is a Czech hospital that provided coronavirus testing.


Effect of COVID-19 on Cryptocurrency

COVID-19 affects the cryptocurrency market just like it affects other markets. Recent research indicates that crypto markets took a U-turn in the midst of the coronavirus.

How the crisis affects cryptocurrencies

The state of emergency caused by the virus has shut down schools, businesses and borders in Europe, the US and other countries.

Researchers analyzed the market cap and trading volume of the top 100 cryptocurrencies during the period of Jan 1 to March 11.  They found that both overall trading volume and market prices hiked initially as the number of identified COVID-19 cases increased. However, this positive correlation later reversed. Investors started to pull their cash out of cryptocurrencies and the market started to fall.

The initial positive correlation between the rise in market cap and volume in cryptocurrencies and the spreading virus may indicate that traders saw cryptocurrency as an effective safe-haven asset and reliable source of liquidity.

When did the trend reverse?

It seems that the trend started to reverse when investors responded to a temporary dip in the number of new cases. When the newly-identified infections started to slow down, the traders may have interpreted a decrease in the spread of the disease as a positive sign to reinvest in traditional assets. The decrease in the investment continued even after the number of new COVID-19 cases began to hike again.


Singapore Act to License Cryptocurrency Firms in Effect


Today we again look back to before the wide international spread of COVID-19.  We look at another notable event that happened in the cryptocurrency world: Singapore’s regulation of cryptocurrencies.

In January 2020, Singapore implemented new legislation which regulates the operations of cryptocurrency firms. The new Payment Services Act will regulate cryptocurrency payments and trading enterprises. Additionally, crypto payment services must comply with Singapore’s Insurance Act, the Financial Advisers Act, Securities and Futures Act, and the Trust Companies Act.

The goal: facilitate growth and innovation

According to an official in charge of supervision of the crypto sphere, the regulatory structure is risk-focused and activity-based. The law strives to allow rules to be applied proportionately and to be robust to changing business models. The new act aims to facilitate growth and innovation.  At the same time, it aims to reduce risk and foster confidence in the payments landscape.

Furthermore, regulators hope that the act will strengthen consumer protection and promote confidence in the use of e-payments.

Licensing requirements for cryptocurrency firms

According to the new regulations, the cryptocurrency-related firms will be required to apply for licenses. Examples include a money-changing license, a major payment institution license and a standard payment institution license.

As countries continue to appreciate more the importance of regulating cryptocurrencies, there will likely be more countries that follow Singapore’s example.  Undoubtedly, they will do so with varying degrees and styles of regulation.




Ransomware Hits A School District

Today, we look back at a ransomware attack on a school district from a few months ago.  As COVID-19 drives more and more schools and businesses online, the importance of preventing hacking attacks becomes even more acute.

A few months ago, a ransomware attack hit a school district in California. It shut down the phone system and servers of the Mountain View-Los Altos school district. The attackers demanded ransom in bitcoin in exchange for restoring the service.

Ransomware shuts down district operations

The ransomware has created problems for school administrators and teachers by closing down their access to files on the district’s servers. The attack on the systems halted or postponed many important classroom activities like presentations and exams.

The software behind the attack is called Sodinokibi. It emerged in 2019 and has now spread across the globe. This malware also hit the London-based Travelex exchange company in January.  It demanded a ransom of over USD $6 million in cryptocurrency from Travelex.

Private company helped school administrators restore services

A private cyber security company worked with the Mountain View-Los Altos administration to restore services.

Hackers have become more and more interested in attacking large businesses and governments.  This is because of their ability to pay ransoms.  It is also because of the essential nature of their services to the public. An example is the attack on New Orleans, where the city had to spend over USD $7 Million to restore its computer system. Though New Orleans is said to recoup over USD $3 million of its lost funds. This is because it took out an insurance policy to protect itself in the event of ransomware attacks. Indeed, as cyber attacks increase, the field of cyber insurance continues to grow as businesses and governments look to protect themselves.