Cybersecurity ‘pandemic’ is coming in wake of coronavirus, expert warns
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Cybersecurity ‘pandemic’ is coming in wake of coronavirus, expert warns

As businesses, hospitals, governments scramble to set up online operations amid lockdowns, hackers find fertile ground for attacks, Check Point’s CEO says

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Check Point CEO Gil Shwed speaks at the Cybertech Israel Conference and Exhibition, in Tel Aviv on January 31, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Check Point CEO Gil Shwed speaks at the Cybertech Israel Conference and Exhibition, in Tel Aviv on January 31, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A cybersecurity “pandemic” is likely to follow that of the coronavirus, as a plethora of businesses and government entities worldwide move quickly to provide and obtain services online without ensuring adequate protection from hackers, the founder and CEO of Israel’s largest cybersecurity firm has warned.

“The corona pandemic may be over, but we need to protect ourselves against the cyber pandemic that is coming,” said Gil Shwed, the founder and CEO of Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. “We need to prevent it. We know it is coming, we know it will happen” and we must make sure it doesn’t cause “as much damage as the original” pandemic.

Shwed spoke on Sunday at a global e-summit that examined the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The virus has killed hundreds of thousands of people around the globe and infected millions, bringing in its wake an unprecedented economic crisis caused by lockdowns on businesses and activities in a bid to curb the spread of the deadly disease. The virus has also created “unprecedented opportunities” for hackers, cybersecurity researchers at Check Point have warned.

A video posted on Israeli websites as part of a cyberattack, May 21, 2020 (Screen grab)

In a report released earlier this month, researchers at the $15.7 billion cybersecurity firm said they saw a 30 percent jump in coronavirus-related cyberattacks in three weeks, with 192,000 such attacks per week worldwide.

As businesses, hospitals, medical providers and governments set up websites or moved their operations online and to the cloud in the face of the lockdowns, and as more and more employees worked from home, hackers were given even more fertile ground for attacks as they sought to find weaknesses in personal computers or cloud-based servers to access precious information.

Companies and governments have been traditionally structured to contain all of their most sensitive information in one location, but overnight, due to the coronavirus pandemic, all of this changed, and entities have needed to remove barriers to their information to make it available for remote access.

In the past three months, technological evolution of businesses and entities has been pushed forward by five or even 10 years because of the coronavirus, said Shwed.

Some government services have moved overnight from no online presence at all to having the internet be the center stage of their activities, he said. “And the level of security on many of them is way too weak. That is something we really need to harden.”

All of this will also cause cybersecurity to change.

“Now we need to secure people’s computers at home, so they are not taken over,” Shwed said. “We need to learn about the new remote break-ins. We see a lot of ‘holes in the environment,’ and must learn about new developments on the hackers’ side.”

“Companies moved tons of applications to the cloud very, very, quickly and we need to make sure that this is a secure environment,” he said. This is “very challenging” because the cloud environment is fairly new and levels of security both for websites and cloud-based applications are “way, way behind.”

The global e-summit, called The New Tomorrow, which will run till June 3, is hosted by the Israeli-American Council (IAC) and the Peres Center for Peace & Innovation, and will see a roster of speakers from the tech and health industries and economists and company leaders discussing the new normal in response to the pandemic.

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