The news right now is all about viruses. It’s impossible to avoid the term. But the current pandemic is not the only place we see viruses. Since the beginning of the digital age, the term virus has been synonymous with computers and other technological devices. This is for good reason. Malicious attacks on computers and networks happen every 39 seconds, and everyone is at risk. Especially during a time when more people are working remotely from networks that may not be as protected as an office environment.
Real-world viruses and digital bugs both travel from host to host replicating as they use the newly infected person or device to make the jump to the next host. Instead of the infection being dispersed in the air from a talking friend, computer viruses are spread through malicious emails and links on unprotected sites. Similarly, in the same way that flu viruses cannot reproduce without a host cell, computer viruses cannot reproduce and spread without programming.
The similarities don’t stop there. You can compare real-world viruses, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, with cyberattacks to help showcase how to better protect yourself in the future.
For instance, the real world and cyber world are similar in the sheer depth of response needed to deal with an attack. In our current situation, the majority of people must adhere to stay at home orders, social distancing, and the adoption of protective masks to keep the spread low. In the digital world, it is important to have everybody in your organization caught up on the latest trends and training to ensure that you do not get a virus to begin with.
Another major similarity between the real world and digital virus responses is the establishment of the proper cultural changes needed. In the real world, the CDC and WHO quickly reminded the people of the world about the importance of being proactive in hygiene practices. Things like washing your hands more often, and not touching your face have become extremely important in slowing the spread of the virus. In the digital world, where employees are still the most common entry point for a virus, creating a cultural shift into a more secure environment includes the regular training and testing of employees to remind them that cyberattacks can happen anywhere at any time.
The immune system is another important factor when dealing with viral infections. Humans have a very diverse range of differences that makes it hard to pinpoint how bad a virus is going to affect a host. In the digital world, the diversity is much less pronounced. This means that in most cases, every unprotected machine in your network will fall victim in the same serious, sometimes lethal way... Because of this, you need to make sure that your machines and servers have proper antivirus and anti-malware/spyware software in place to act as a bouncer of sorts for your computer, Your networks need to have professional quality firewalls stopping the spread of infection, and you should have a VPN in place to make sure hackers can’t intercept your data on public networks.
While everything before this has been advice to help you keep from getting infected, sometimes it is too late. What happens at that point? In the real world, your doctor will prescribe antiviral medication for the specific type of virus you have contracted. In the digital world, once you end up with the virus there aren’t any real “medications'' you can prescribe your system. Most “remedies” are focused on not getting the virus in the first place. The best chance you have at protecting your data from deletion is to complete regular data backups. That way once you get infected, your path back to a healthy environment would include wiping your network, removing the virus, and then restoring a new instance of your data.
As you can see, the real world and cyber viruses have multiple similarities. While the impact of a pandemic such as COVID-19 is obviously on an immeasurable scale, lessons learned from it could help in many ways. Whether these ways are for future pandemic responses or, on a much smaller scale, help you protect your business. We can be there for you when you need help improving your network environment and IT Best Practices.
What is a computer virus without a cybercriminal that introduces it into your network... check out our report “The Top 10 Ways Hackers Get Around Your Firewall and Anti-Virus” and learn how to stop viruses at the source.