KEY POINTS

  • Hackers have been using the COVID-19 situation to stage an increasing number of cyberattacks
  • Pentagon officials have said that they are under attack too, and the number is growing
  • About anyone on the Internet is fair game for phishing attacks

At a time when jobs have moved away from offices and into homes, cyberattacks have become a frequent issue. Attacks on the Pentagon are reportedly surging as hackers are exploiting Defense Department workers who are signing in from home.

US News reported that an unprecedented number of these workers are using their computer systems from home. Lt. Gen. B.J. Shwedo, head of a task force whose purpose is to protect telecommuting staff from cyberattacks and Digital Denial of Service (DDoS) issues, said that “spear-phishing,” or tricking users into clicking links that may steal their sensitive details or account information, has been increasing.

Gen. Shwedo believed that hackers are using the current situation to mount attacks and are very good at exploiting it. However, those are the only details that he would share, declining to name a source or to pinpoint the exact target of these attacks as doing so would “give (the hackers) insight” into what the military was learning about them.

It isn’t only the Pentagon who these hackers are targeting; everyone on the Web is fair game. Independent UK reported how hackers are using “fearware” to trick victims into giving away sensitive information. A popular form of scamming involves phishing emails that appear to contain legitimate health information or advise on how to avoid contracting COVID-19.

Max Heinemeyer, director of threat hunting at Darktrace, said that it is easy to spot these phishing emails. Most of the time, they look like official emails; however, upon closer inspection, they often contain fearsome messages or letters that are designed to stoke a person’s anxiety.

In the case of Pentagon employees, hackers can still gain some measure of information from them. If they can’t hack directly into the Pentagon through an employee clicking on a phishing message, they could still get some type of detail, such as what devices they are logged on or whether an employee is on a secure network or using a potentially unprotected one from home.

Jamil Jaffer, a veteran cybersecurity official for the government, said that this type of work arrangement was clearly unprecedented. Aside from the cybersecurity issues, the unorthodox nature of doing work for the government from home is already a very big challenge to face.

The UN Security Council has not met since March 12, with most UN staff working from home to avoid infection The UN Security Council has not met since March 12, with most UN staff working from home to avoid infection Photo: AFP / Johannes EISELE