COVID-19: The Digital Side Effects

COVID-19: The Digital Side Effects

COVID-19, where do we start? Not only has it disrupted and caused chaos in lives all over the world, but it has stimulated changes in the cybersecurity realm, in some cases, that was well overdue. The pandemic forced everyone inside, workplaces to close, and our lives to be turned upside down for an extended period of time. But it also shone a light upon issues we’d been pushing to the back of our minds, blissfully ignoring the fact that as technology becomes more sophisticated, so do the hackers, the pirates, and the malicious actors.

The Video Entertainment industry had to step up to face the suddenly skyrocketing demand like never before to satisfy our insatiable appetite for more content and to draw our attention from the chaos outside. Television ratings that had previously been down now experienced an exponential spike because of Coronavirus–related news (Source: Publicis Groupe India Report). OTT streaming was under pressure to provide sanctuary from the anxiety-inducing situation developing during 2020, providing us with an escape to somewhere without a pandemic. Earlier this year, Netflix announced that it had seen an additional 16 million subscribers flock to its premium content service (Source: BBC). We ran into the arms of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+ to alleviate the stress of staying home and staying safe. Demand has been so high at points that both Netflix and YouTube announced they were cutting their streaming video quality from HD to SD to reduce the amount of bandwidth consumed by users (Source: TechRadarPro).

To no surprise, content piracy also had its time to shine. The pirates set sail, making sure they delivered bountiful amounts of illegal content to feed our inordinate consumption further. ABI Research states that more than 17% of worldwide video streaming users stream content illegally (Source: ABIresearch). This activity has been stealing bandwidth and subscriber revenues from legitimate content and service providers. What caused this increase? Boredom, a lack of new content, fatigue with series, and the high demand placed on other service providers could all be feasible factors. To combat this, it would take more than a single plan of attack, with more than a solitary solution. What do these anti-piracy solutions look like? Content providers should deploy forensic watermarking for live and VOD content, coupled with online piracy detection and investigation and enforcement services, which can aid in putting a stop to rights infringement and protect IP. Effective anti-piracy requires close collaboration between industry, government, and law enforcement. 

Ransomware Attacks

With people under quarantine and social distancing measures in place, spending the majority of time at home became the norm. In a plea to remain connected, we picked up our tablets, phones, laptops, and other endpoints to sustain our relationships with the outside world. Both vulnerability and temptation rose as we spent more time on our devices, we were beckoning hackers to take advantage of our time online. Cybercriminals were capitalizing on the COVID-19 crisis by targeting both individuals and organizations with a host of attacks. Hackers were using phishing campaigns, disguised as ‘official emails’ from authorities such as the World Health Organization, to deceive citizens into divulging their personal and sensitive information (Source: NCSC). Working from home became the typical working routine, which also meant cybercriminals turned their attention to scanning for vulnerabilities in software and remote working tools as more people shifted their working habits. The Russian hacking group Evil Corp is alleged to have launched several ransomware attacks against at least 31 US companies, via the companies’ employees working remotely (Source: BBC).

Healthcare Industry Challenges

And while all this was happening, the Healthcare industry was fighting its own battle, not only against the ravenous COVID-19 virus but against malicious actors’ attacks. Necessary advancements, and the need for organizations to develop, market, and evolve products very quickly, had led to unnecessary shortcuts and quick decisions to get products to market – meaning they were vulnerable to attacks. The average hospital room has anywhere between 15-20 network-connected medical devices and it is this growth of connectivity that brings, not only increased operational efficiencies but also an ever-expanding attack surface for cybercriminals (Source: HealthEuropa). The attacks rained down on the Healthcare industry globally, disrupting healthcare workers fighting the pandemic. Entire medical histories are now often digitized, from prescriptions to medical procedures and these items appear most attractive to the opportunistic hacker that looks to then sell this sensitive data. Targeting hospitals meant that hackers could lock staff out of the critical care systems to be able to extort a more significant, or quicker, ransomware payment. Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary General, mentioned "they have become targets for ruthless cybercriminals who are looking to make a profit at the expense of sick patients" (Source: Forbes). Endpoints need to be updated and more rigorously secured while patients relied on those very endpoints and devices to save their lives.

Although this year has been a real ride, among all the stress and strain we’ve learned a lot. One of the most important lessons we should take from the pandemic is that we should always be ready, whether it be ready to handle demand or to handle the increased threats. Our endpoints, our systems, and our data need to be secure, not just ‘secure enough to protect not only digital content and sensitive information but lives too. At Irdeto, we’re ready to secure data, devices, and software. We’re building a secure future where people can embrace connectivity without fear!