As coronavirus outbreaks continue to spread worldwide, consumers and businesses are turning to the internet for their personal and business needs. In our heavily digital world, this is a logical next step – after all, we can work from home and have everything from groceries to medicines delivered to our doorsteps.
Indeed, we’re seeing a sharp increase in online commerce. In China, for example, as people are stuck at home waiting out the pandemic, delivery companies are struggling with surges in orders. Per CNBC, “about 20,000 delivery people were manning an average of more than 400,000 orders a day from takeout platforms Meituan and Elema.”
This presents a logistical nightmare for manufacturers and delivery services…and offers a tremendous opportunity for hackers to disrupt countries’ entire logistics industries and economies.
A Dangerous Domino Effect
As my colleague Yaniv recently wrote, the coronavirus is changing how the global economy operates. As people’s behaviors shift and businesses implement remote work policies, the ensuing online traffic surges create big problems. Namely, online systems’ availability and performance are taking a hit, and threat actors are opportunistically launching cyber-attacks.
As Digiday reported, businesses are under extreme pressure to fulfill online orders, which threaten ‘to up-end their e-commerce operations”; in February, executives from Proctor & Gamble told shareholders that the virus-related demands are putting significant pressure on its e-commerce business.
Heed the Lesson from Down Under
Case in point: Here in Australia, our largest logistics supplier, Toll Group, was taken offline in the midst of this global crisis because of a ransomware infection. The Mailto ransomware attack affected more than 1,000 servers and forced Toll to revert to manual processes for “clearing the backlog of undelivered local and international parcels across Australia.” The result? Operations slowed to a crawl.
Yet already this attack seems like old news, with more breaches occurring in the following weeks, including a cyber attack halting wool sales nationwide and a $30 million ransom attack against Auction house Manheim.
Even under the best of circumstances, when systems are working as they should, load balancing and application delivery performance are challenging. Throw in a large-scale attack, like the one Toll sustained, and the ripple effects are far-ranging and long lasting. The increasing sophistication and resources of threat actors can overwhelm an IT organization despite all their best intentions.
Under today’s emergent conditions, such attacks on critical infrastructure can downright cripple an economy and even threaten the well-being of large swaths of the population.
Prepare for the Worst
It’s always a good idea to be as prepared as possible. Even in the throes of an unanticipated crisis like coronavirus, there are steps that organizations can—and should!—take to preserve business continuity. For example:
- Assume it is going to happen to you. Better to prevent and mitigate than react in the midst of crisis. The cost to remedy and the impact to future business – reputation and revenue loss, and broken trust is truly best avoided.
- Test continuity plans and ‘what-if’ scenarios. Perform a dry run with the organization working remotely to prepare and adapt.
- Have an incident response plan ready to implement.
- Don’t go it alone. In planning or responding to a cyber threat, call in the experts to partner with your organisation.
And – I can’t emphasize this enough – taking a ZERO TRUST approach is absolutely critical; organizations simply can’t rely only on human behavior to protect their networks and data, especially when facing the perfect storm of a global pandemic and opportunistic threat actors.
Perhaps at no time in history has the availability, resiliency and integrity of our online systems been more critically important to society. It’s not too far a stretch to declare that lives may depend on it.
Stay safe, wash your hands and remember, every second counts.