Anand Choudha is CEO at Spectrami Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: This time will be remembered as a disruptive one: not just due to COVID 19 pandemic but also the year of digital transformation, exponential change in work life and the most important being the cyber incidents that transformed the society.

The threat to cyberspace was one such thing that has never been a part of a global pandemic. The negative impacts of cyber space during the present situation has coined a new term: “cyber pandemic”. “With Cyber criminals exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic by launching an unprecedented barrage of Covid-19 themed attacks, there has been a big increase in the cyber-attacks since this pandemic started.

UAE has been one of the most affected countries in the region, accounting bulk of the Covid-19 themed attacks in GCC,” says Anand Choudha, CEO at Spectrami.

UAE has seen at least 250% increase in the cyber-attacks in the year 2020 as the pandemic forced organizations around the world to an immediate remote working scenario.

The cyber-attacks vary from ransomware to data breaches and from fake vaccines to unemployment fraud. “Similar, trends have been witnessed across the globe, as cyber criminals have taken advantage of people using remote working applications. There have been several examples, where cyber criminals have been feeding on the fears of coronavirus, and more than ever people are spending more time online.”

In 2020, World Health Organization (WHO) reported a fivefold increase in cyber-attacks directed at its staffs and the public at the large. Healthcare organizations stayed as the most exposed industry to cyber-attacks throughout 2020. Research shows that data breaches and ransomware attacks alone cost the industry an estimated $4 billion. The industry also accounted for more than 4 in 10 breaches. Other critical infrastructures also face similar crisis.

“Critical infrastructure organizations, such as Energy, Utilities, Banking, and Financial, and Government remains the prime choice of cyber criminals and hackers, making them most vulnerable to cyber-attacks.” added Anand. He further elaborated on cyber attackers using unemployment fraud as a key tactics. “Because of the current situation, sectors that are seeing a lot of layoffs can be extremely vulnerable to such attacks.”

The tech world being an extension of the real world with everyone and everything being connected, it is important to be cautious during this pandemic situation. Since, the outbreak of COVID 19, there is an increase in the cyber-attacks and security officers are being extra vigilant to protect the system and data.

“Since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for VPN security solutions have increased as people are working from home and yet they need to connect with the company's network or cloud when you talk about remote connectivity the requirement for multi-factor authentication gone up, and endpoints such as laptops or mobiles have moved to an unsecured home environment, the need for endpoint security has moved up. Pro-active approach to security is also required, as their networks are open for remote connectivity and they need to secure those networks.” says Anand.

In 2021, a cyber-attack incident is expected to occur every 11 seconds, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. This makes the IT team more vigilant to attacks and we see an increase in precautions.

“On technology front, we will continue to see the market for cyber security growing. The cloud and remote services adoption will stay in higher growth trajectory and digital transformation will gain further momentum.” says Anand.

As companies are trying to pave the path after the disruption caused by the pandemic, cyber criminals are coming up with new threats to break the construction.

According to Cybersecurity Ventures’ Special Report - “Cyberwarfare In The C-Suite” - the research states that cybercrime will cost the global economy $6.1 trillion annually by 2021, making it the world’s third largest economy. Since the graph of cybercrimes is going uphill and not showing any signs of slowing down, individuals and industries are at equal risk of cyber-attacks making it important to be alert at all times.