Cybersecurity During COVID-19

Michael Batty and Cathie Wilson

December 07, 2020

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In recognition of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we tapped into the minds of Mike Batty, academic director for the Information & Communications Technology program, and Cathie Wilson, assistant academic director, to discuss cybersecurity.

Q: We've seen cybersecurity take center stage in recent months as much of the workforce began working remotely. Given this, what are some challenges that arose, and what are the opportunities moving forward?

A: Many companies and educational institutions did not have well-developed and tested work-from-home policies or plans. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sudden shift to a remote workforce resulted in the creation of ad-hoc plans, which in turn resulted in potential cybersecurity problems, such as using personal devices to access company data, and exposure to malware, viruses, and malicious actors.

The good news is that companies are learning the importance of developing sound cybersecurity policies and processes.

In the end, COVID-19 will result in changes to how people work; for example, the number of people working remotely, either full-time or part-time, may be higher than pre-COVID numbers. Companies may discover benefits associated with a remote workforce, such as a decreased need for expensive office space. On the other hand, employees may desire to return to the office full-time to keep their home and workspace separate and for social interactions with their peers and friends.
Since the increase in a remote workforce may continue for the foreseeable future, it is important for individuals and companies to continue to make security a top priority.

Q: How can organizations and their employees do their part and be "cybersmart"?

A: First and foremost, being aware of the importance of cybersecurity policies and practices will go a long way to protect data and systems. Companies should have well-developed and tested cybersecurity policies and procedures, and there must be an appropriate level of cybersecurity training and education.

Bad actors quickly learned how to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic for financial gain, and they engaged in malicious activities with email as their primary conduit for obtaining personal information. Think back over the past few months; do you recall receiving an email asking you to contribute to a COVID-19 relief fund, or asking you to help someone who is out of work pay their rent? These are two examples of the phishing attempts you may have seen. Additionally, you may have received multiple emails saying suspicious activity was reported on your bank card or online shopping account, and all you need to do to correct the problem is click on a link or call a phone number for assistance.

Some ways employees can do their part to be cybersmart include repeating the mantra "think before you click" before clicking on links in emails, only download images or documents from trusted sources, report phishing attempts to your IT department (this may be as simple as clicking a "Report Phishing" button in Outlook), and treat emails with suspicious subjects as potential threats.
In addition, organizations can do their part in continuing to make security a top priority by implementing sound information security policies, practices, and tools.

Q: At University College, we have areas of study in Information Systems Security and Cybersecurity Management. Who are these programs ideal for?

A: The Information Systems Security concentration is for people whose focus is on the everyday aspects of protecting data, network infrastructure, and systems. Students in the Information Systems Security concentration will learn about networking protocols, analyzing packets using tools such as WireShark, identity access, and disaster recovery and operations security.

The Cybersecurity Management concentration is for people who are on the management track. This concentration covers topics such as creating cybersecurity policy, enterprise cybersecurity training programs, cybersecurity risk and response, and cybersecurity leadership and strategic planning. This program is idea for students that currently work in the information system security or cybersecurity field and would like to move into a more managerial role. To learn more, visit

Did you know?
There are more than 200,000 cybersecurity positions unfilled, growing by 37% in the next few years (Forbes).

Cybersecurity professionals make around $46.01 to $57.23 per hour (Emsi Labor).

There will be approximately 1.8 million cybersecurity professionals needed by 2022 (Cyber Defense Magazine).

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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