Challenges of Managing Cybersecurity at COVID-19

The COVID-19 induced adjustments in the networked systems of organizations left them vulnerable to cyberattacks, and managing Cybersecurity incidents during the pandemic was challenging for several reasons.

Firstly, the nature of the spread of the virus imposed logistic limitations that initially inhibited the feasibility of a coordinated global Cybersecurity approach as each region resorted to self-help to cyber defense. Advisories on the anticipated Cybersecurity fallouts were either non-existent, lacked wide publicity, or were applied late when the cyberattacks had already gained momentum. It was as though cyber criminals were waiting to exploit the impending crisis. The initial impacts created more psychological apprehension and hampered attempts to evolve a global scale emergency data protection strategy.

The fear of contracting the disease was so captivating that Cybersecurity vendors struggled to balance the medical safety of their workforce against the urgency of developing solutions to protect the cyberspace. Amid the panic over rising infection figures, personnel needed time to settle down, selfisolate, adapt to the lockdown restrictions, stockpile food, and think clearly under such unfamiliar conditions. That timeframe to settle down was cleverly exploited by cyber criminals in a typical zero-day style as if it was an opportunity being awaited and prepared for, long before.

Secondly, many potential targets succumbed easily to social engineering threats due to the panic which made every online resource purportedly linked to coronavirus disease to appear attractive including deceptive web portals and email scams that stylishly embedded malware. The human vulnerability angle, exhibited out of shear desperation, made a nonsense of subsisting social engineering ethics. People just wanted to remain alive, and so any online resource that had a semblance of coronavirus update, cure, vaccine [1], therapy, solution, recovery, and like terms became enticing and irresistibly clickable. As a result, cyber criminals took advantage of people’s desperation and fear to propagate malware [2].

Thirdly, each good-intentioned global response to the COVID-19 pandemic was in some way exploited by malicious hackers to initiate a unique type of attack, and this created risks of data loss, identity theft, and operational disruption. Table 4.1 matches various COVID-19 interventions with the corresponding Cybersecurity risks associated with them and highlights how-hackers and online fraudsters took advantage of genuine measures intended to curb the spread of the virus at the time.

Identity and Access Control Challenges

Authentication Challenges

Authentication is the confirmation of a person against a pre-established identity for the sake of accessing a service [3]. It is the process of verifying the genuineness of an identity as a condition for granting user access into an information system. Poorly protected user access can become an attacker’s entry point into a target system [4]. COVID-19 witnessed an amplification of the issues inherent in existing authentication protocols, especially those that deal with remote access and encryption. High profile breaches occurred due to authentication breakdown.

The inability to undertake proper authentication is a key driver of cybercrime, leaving digital identities vulnerable to exploitation by malicious hackers. It also impacts on the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the data of other legitimate users and is linked to identity theft related abuses such as spear phishing, spamming, cyber espionage, and ransomware, and other disruptive threats including man-in-the-middle attack and distributed denial of service.

Authorization Challenges

Authorization challenges refer to issues with the process of assigning roles and privileges to a verified user. In this regard, the challenges surrounding

5 • Challenges of Managing Cybersecurity at COVID-19 105 the extent to which COVID-19 influenced the security of authorization techniques are significant.

Accountability Challenges

In access control, accountability means the ability to keep chronological and transactional track of digital activities of an authenticated user on any digital resource whether online, offline, or local. Poor accountability owing to COVID-19 adjustments on many ocassions narrowed tracking capabilities and restricted the audit of digital footprints, which ultimately created trust issues.

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