This article was originally written and published on September 8, 2021 by Phil Yacuboski for The Times-Tribune.
The number of people working from home skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic.
About 70 percent of people called their home offices, living rooms, and dining room tables their office, according to research compiled by Pew Research.
With so many people connected to their offices from their homes, cyberattacks have increased.
According to a Information Systems Audit and Control Association survey, cyberattacks rose during COVID-19, and only half of IT departments were ready.
Colby Kalinowski, regional manager at Bedrock Technology headquartered in Jessup, said they’ve seen a significant uptick in cyberattacks since the beginning of the pandemic.
“A lot of it started when people began relying on technology and working from home,” he said. “We did see a lot of phishing campaigns,” which are suspicious emails sent to an address to extract personal information.
He said they recommend any small business have antivirus and antimalware software installed on each computer. In addition, he also said business owners should consider an insurance policy.
“The big recommendation we have for a lot of our clients is that they have a cyber security insurance policy,” he said. “A lot of the medium to larger businesses require it, but for smaller businesses, an insurance policy is the best way to go.”
He said a lot of small business owners don’t think it’s necessary. It can be expensive, but Kalinowski said it’s worth it in the long run.
“It’s becoming more and more prevalent,” he said. “It’s on the news more and more. I think people are seeing local governments, schools, utility companies, and other entities get attacked and taken down by ransomware. I think it’s becoming more in the front of their minds.”
Caleb Ruseskas, director of technical services of Tech 42, an IT services firm in Dunmore, said his firm has been helping clients with an increase in cyber attacks since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Investing in email security is a given,” he said. “That also means making sure your spam folders are up to date.”
He also recommends email and cyber training for employees. Ruseskas said training employees to spot phishing scams and suspicious links can go a long way to prevent future problems.
Ruseskas said multi-factor authentication is one of the biggest things business owners can do to make sure they protect their computer network. Users must provide multiple layers of access before getting into their computer network.
“It’s a pain, but it’s the best thing you could possibly do,” he said.
He said regardless of the size of the business, everyone is at risk.
“A lot of small business owners have the opinion that their data isn’t important to anyone,” said Ruseskas. “But your data is important to yourself. And you don’t want to have that data held for ransom.
Bad actors can get into your computer systems and monitor what you’re doing for quite some time, and you won’t know it.
They can also infect your backup systems so when the actual attack hits, you’ve lost your backups. It can be quite crippling.”
Our area has seen several cyberattacks.
In 2019, a cyberattack affected Luzerne County government, shutting down access to its computer system. It forced people to file records by paper and suspended people looking up records online. Luzerne County does have cyberattack insurance, but there was a $10,000 deductible.
The city of Allentown suffered a crippling cyberattack that cost nearly $1 million.
Jim Slick, President, and CEO of Slick Cyber Systems of White Haven, said not being protected costs money in lost business.
He said the number of attacks come from other countries like the Philippines, China, Russia, and Japan. He said thieves want money.
“The dollar amount will cost you a lot,” he said. “It’s a lot more than just a firewall. It needs to stop all of the bad stuff going in and out.”
He said before an email hits the email server, an attack could be intercepted.
“That’s a good first line of defense,” he said.
Slick said cyber security can be pricey, but added it can be reasonably priced depending on the size of the business.
He said it typically means on-site hardware installation along with cloud management and software.
“It’s not something you can snap your fingers and do instantly,” he said. “It takes a full day for installation.”
Regardless of size, businesses should be protected, said Kalinowski.
“I’d recommend it for everyone,” he said. “If you’re online and you’re connected to the internet, you need it.”