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The coronavirus pandemic has increased the risk of cyberattack, the World Economic Forum has warned.
Officials note that, with the world battling to contain the coronavirus outbreak, a cyberattack could wreak very real devastation.
“In today’s unprecedented context, a cyberattack that deprives organizations or families of access to their devices, data or the internet could be devastating and even deadly," explained the World Economic Forum in a statement, adding, "In a worst-case scenario, broad-based cyberattacks could cause widespread infrastructure failures that take entire communities or cities offline, obstructing healthcare providers, public systems and networks.”
An emergency such as this could also cause people to lower their defenses, opening the door to cybercriminals. “In a crisis situation, particularly if prolonged, people tend to make mistakes they would not have made otherwise,” explained the World Economic Forum. “Online, making a mistake in terms of which link you click on or who you trust with your data can cost you dearly.”
Additionally, spending more time online could increase the risks that internet users face. “Inadvertently risky Internet behavior increases with more time spent online,” the World Economic Forum said. “For example, users could fall for ‘free’ access to obscure websites or pirated shows, opening the door to likely malware and attacks.”
Debbie Gordon, CEO of cybersecurity specialist Cloud Range Cyber echoed the World Economic Forum's warning. "Now more than ever, people need to be even more aware of phishing emails, especially ones that refer to COVID-19 in any form or fashion whether it's a cure, reports of cases, or really anything that would make people very curious," she told Fox News, via email.
Companies also need to be extra alert, according to Gordon. "As companies focus on getting technology and security systems up to speed for remote workers, they can't take their eyes off the ball," she explained. "Companies have to be even more proactive in detecting threats and looking at anomalies in their systems given that the hackers are aware that people are scrambling and can have their attention focused somewhere else."
There has already been evidence of the threats that cyberattackers pose during the coronavirus crisis. As the U.S. ramped up its efforts to control the outbreak, a cyberattack recently hit the Department of Health and Human Services.
As of Friday afternoon, at least 265,495 coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, 16,018 of which are in the U.S. The disease has accounted for at least 11,147 deaths around the world, including 210 people in the U.S.
James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers