Coronavirus tips: How to keep hackers from exploiting work-from-home vulnerabilities

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Friday, March 27, 2020
Hackers try to exploit work-from-home vulnerabilities during coronavirus pandemic
Hackers are zeroing in on new vulnerabilities created as millions are forced to work from home by the coronavirus pandemic.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Hackers are zeroing in on new vulnerabilities created as millions of Americans are forced to work from home by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Companies were not prepared for this mass exodus of the office space, so there are a ton of workarounds happening in order for companies to operate," said cybersecurity and privacy attorney Melissa Ventrone, a partner at Clark Hill law firm in Chicago.

Ventrone said scammers are targeting your work-from-home stations during the COVID -19 pandemic.

Experts say because so many employees were sent home so suddenly, corporations didn't have time to issue company devices which may be more secure. Many workers using their own laptops and tablets.

"They know more people are working from home, they know unlike when you are working in the office and there is the IT office right down the hall, that everything is remote," explained Ventrone .

The first scam is mostly from overseas.

"We are seeing an update of phishing emails in relation to COVID-19," Ventrone said.

The Department of Homeland Security and FBI also said they've seen an uptick in phishing emails related to COVID-19, including health tips, cooking tips or fundraising. And now that you're working from home, if you click or download, experts say you're exposing your personal and work information.

"Don't click on suspicious links," said Ventrone. "Take your mouse and hover over the link itself and see if it is an authorized email."

"It's always OK to open an email but the risk is, if you click on the link or attachment, before you do that verify the sender," said Rob Cheng, CEO and a security expert at PC Matic.

Cheng also said you should make sure emails you get aren't spoofed or faked by scammers. If you have a strange email from a coworker you should call them before responding or clicking.

"The number one concern we are seeing a big increase in the number of emails because they all, now we are trying to get more info on the virus," explained Cheng.

The other attack is domestic hackers literally driving around neighborhoods looking for unsecure WiFi networks and routers with weak passwords.

"The way that it works in a corporate network is the security is very consistent; at your home computers it's all over the map. Some can be quite good some can be bad," said Cheng.

Thieves will look for weaknesses in your tech security or your company's firewalls. And you should care if your company is the victim because, as Cheng said, "50 percent of small businesses go out of business six months after a ransom ware attack so it is helping to protect your job."

So what can you do?

-Enable security for programs like video conferencing so your access isn't shared.

-Make sure your passwords for your personal and corporate emails are different.

-Then reset your router and your WiFi network password. Use a strong one with several letters and characters. Create a sentence that only you would know.

-Remember to download updates on computers and software.

You can also ask your company if they can provide you with anti-virus software or you can make sure you have it on your own.

If you are using a free anti-virus software, make sure it is strong enough. Beware that some free anti-virus software can also be scams looking for access to your computer.