Fortinet advises cyber distancing and network isolation to protect organisations


A surge of 600 new phishing campaigns per day and 131% increase in viruses target remote workers

Fortinet, a global leader in broad, integrated and automated cyber security solutions, announced that over the past several weeks, FortiGuard Labs has been monitoring a significant spike in COVID-19 related threats. Cybercriminals are unleashing a surprisingly high volume of new threats in this short period of time to take advantage of inadvertent security gaps as organizations are in a rush to ensure business continuity.

Cybercriminals are exploiting the rapid change to our digital world
An unprecedented number of unprotected users and devices are now online with one or
two people in every home connecting remotely to work through the internet. Simultaneously there are children at home engaged in remote learning and the entire family is engaged in multi-player games, chatting with friends as well as streaming music and video.

FortiGuard Labs is observing this perfect storm of opportunity being exploited by
cyber-criminals as the Threat Report on the pandemic highlights:
A surge in phishing attacks: FortiGuard Labs research shows an average of about
600 new phishing campaigns every day. The content is designed to either prey on
the fears and concerns of individuals or pretend to provide essential information on
the current pandemic. The phishing attacks range from scams related to helping
individuals deposit their stimulus for Covid-19 tests, to providing access to
Chloroquine and other medicines or medical device, to providing helpdesk support for new teleworkers. In addition to scams targeting adults, some phishing attacks
target children with offers of online games and free movies, or even access to credit
cards to buy online games or shop online.

Phishing scams are just the start: While the attacks start with a phishing attack,
their end goal is to steal personal information or even target businesses through
teleworkers. Majority of the phishing attacks contain malicious payloads – including
ransomware, viruses, remote access trojans (RATs) designed to provide criminals
with remote access to endpoint systems, and even RDP (remote desktop protocol)

A sudden spike in viruses: The first quarter of 2020 has documented a 17% increase
in viruses for January, a 52% increase for February and an alarming 131% increase
for March compared to the same period in 2019. The significant rise in viruses is
mainly attributed to malicious phishing attachments. Multiple sites that are illegally
streaming movies that were still in theatres secretly infect malware to anyone who
logs on. Free game, free movie, and the attacker is on your network.

Risks for IoT devices magnify: As users are all connected to the home network,
attackers have multiple avenues of attack that can be exploited targeting devices
including computers, tablets, gaming and entertainment systems and even
online IoT devices such as digital cameras, smart appliances – with the ultimate goal
of finding a way back into a corporate network and its valuable digital resources.

Ransomware like attack to disrupt business: If the device of a remote worker can be compromised, it can become a conduit back into the organization’s core network,
enabling the spread of malware to other remote workers. The resulting business
disruption can be just as effective as ransomware targeting internal network systems
for taking a business offline. Since helpdesks are now remote, devices infected with
ransomware or a virus can incapacitate workers for days while devices are mailed in
for reimaging.

Solutions and Countermeasures
Organizations should take measures to protect their remote workers and help them secure
their devices and home networks. Consider adopting the same strategy for cyber viruses
that we are adopting in the real world. Cyber social distancing is all about recognizing risks
and keeping our distance. Isolation is all about segmenting networks and quarantining the
malware from spreading across the network. Here are a few critical steps to consider:

Endpoint Security: Endpoint Security provides a VPN client to ensure that remote traffic
remains secure. For organizations looking for an even more robust endpoint security
solution a EDR solution provides advanced, real-time threat protection for endpoints both
pre and post-infection, in addition to robust antivirus technologies installed at the kernel to
detect and prevent malware infection, it can also respond to device breaches in real-time by detecting and defusing potential threats before they have the chance to compromise the

Connectivity: VPN connections can be run and managed independently, organizations with
large numbers of remote workers may need the addition of an Enterprise Management
Server solution. An EMS solution can securely and automatically share information between
endpoint and the network, push out software updates, and assign security profiles to

Access to Cloud Applications: Driving all traffic through a VPN tunnel can actually have a doubling impact on network traffic. In addition to all of the remote workers connecting into the network, the network will also need to manage all of the outbound connections to cloud services. However, since this traffic will not be run through the organization’s edge security solutions, these direct connections will require a cloud-based security solution.  Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) will provide visibility, compliance, data security, and threat protection for access to SaaS and other cloud-based services being used by an organization.

Network Access Control: Cybercriminals intend to exploit this rapid transition to a
teleworker strategy by hoping to get overlooked by masquerading as a legitimate corporate
end-user or IoT device, or by hijacking a legitimate device. Network Access Control tools can see and identify everything connected to the network, as well as control those devices and users, including dynamic, automated responses. Network Access Control enables IT teams to see every device and user as they join the network, combined with the ability to limit devices access in the network, and automatically react to devices that fall out of policy
within seconds.

Network Segmentation: Network segmentation ensures that devices, users, workflows, and applications can be isolated to prevent unauthorized access and data loss, as well as to limit exposure if there is a breach at the network perimeter. Next Generation Firewall enables segmentation at the network perimeter further this can be enhanced using an Internal Segmentation Firewall.

Zero-Trust Network Access: The best security posture during this period is to consider that every user and device has already been compromised.

Combining all of the solutions outlined above organizations can ensure that devices and
users are limited to access network resources they require to do their job, and nothing


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