Points of View

It’s not just healthcare industries that need to worry about COVID-19: Every enterprise should be looking to managed security providers for assistance in the face of new and increasing cyberthreats

Mar 27, 2020 Khalda De Souza Callum Moore

Cybercriminals are once again out in force, and just when you thought they couldn’t get any lower, they have quickly taken the opportunity to strike amid the confusion of the COVID-19 crisis. Criminals have been up to their old tricks by exploiting the human factor with ransomware and phishing emails, all related to the outbreak. Enterprises must ensure their managed service security provider is maintaining a tight ring of defense around the organization and catching any malicious attempts to undermine security.


Ransomware and phishing emails are on the rise; enterprises must be vigilant for new scare tactics from cybercriminals


Incidents like COVID-19 provide cybercriminals with a prime opportunity to take advantage of citizens who are concerned and looking for advice to help with their safety and health during a difficult time.

Worryingly,  phishing spam is imitating official communications from the health authorities; in addition, the spam can contain malicious software that could steal a person’s data or hijack their device. This is a relatively low-level activity, but these actions could undermine the effectiveness of any official information on COVID-19 if it was to be released. Moreover, these actions could easily enable penetration of enterprise systems. This threat should be a worrying prospect for an enterprise that could be faced with significant disruption to day-to day-business and financial loss.


The COVID-19-driven increase in employees working from home will exacerbate these low-level cybercrime activities. No doubt, the rush to get employees out of packed offices will have resulted in some personnel being issued new devices or needing to use their own until adequate equipment is supplied. Cybercriminals will be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of what is likely many devices that have not been adequately secured with the latest patches and anti-virus software.


The healthcare industry is just one example of an industry that needs protecting—If cybercriminals will attack it, any industry is fair game


Importantly, the US Health and Human Services Department was hit with a cyberattack. The attackers gained access to the health department’s system and circulated false information about a national quarantine and national lockdown via text message. The attackers achieved this by flooding the department’s servers with millions of requests over several hours, slowing systems and leaving them vulnerable.


The attackers did not steal any data, according to the department, but this intrusion has highlighted that the healthcare industry is a prime target for cybercriminals, even in these extraordinary times. Data is valuable, and although the invaders didn’t target it this time, the implications of having a large leak during a crisis could be financially detrimental to an organization and possibly its clients. If cybercriminals are despicable enough to target the health industry in this challenging time, then they will have no qualms about exploiting other industries.


Managed security service providers have a wealth of experience and resources; enterprise leaders should look to them for cyber support


During these testing times, enterprises need to focus on their primary role. It should, therefore,  be looking to managed security service providers to ensure that systems stay secure. Managed security services providers not only have experience with security, but they also have a wealth of knowledge about tailoring security to different industries. Threat intelligence, detection, and response services are particularly important in the current situation. Examples of services that are actively staying abreast of COVID-19 based threats to enterprises include


  • Accenture offers end-to-end managed security services offerings for clients, with detailed and differentiating industry-sector understanding. Accenture created detailed process value chains for each industry sector and identified the potential threats at each stage of the process and the threat actors likely to carry out those threats. Accenture is encouraging customers to act quickly to support people by using Accenture’s Elastic Digital Workplace solution. This enables companies to rapidly scale up as needed to adapt to changing business needs.
  • IBM’s X-Force Threat Management Services include X-Force Incident Response and Intelligence Services (IRIS), which use Watson AI and orchestration technologies. The services give clients access to a global team of X-Force experts to facilitate speedy threat management services.
  • Secureworks’ Counter Threat Platform includes machine learning for fast threat detection, threat response, and threat prediction and prevention. Secureworks recently communicated with clients that its Business Continuity team, Managed Security Services team, Security Risk and Consulting team, and Incident Response team are working together to reduce any business disruption.


Enterprises should explore the support offered by managed security services providers (MSSP) like Accenture, IBM, and Secureworks. Ask your incumbent service provider about offerings in security. Even if you do not engage with your service provider currently for security work, they may have something valuable to offer in this space that meets your current business needs. The HFS Managed Security Services Top 10, 2019 also provides examples of MSSPs in the market.


The Bottom Line: Industry can’t take the risk of having its day-to-day running disrupted. They must leverage managed service security providers for their know-how and capabilities.


Industry can easily become overstretched in times of crisis, as evidence would suggest from the COVID-19 outbreak. With it paramount that the industry keep running at all costs, industry cannot take its foot off the pedal when it comes to security. Failure to secure itself will see reputational and financial damage and, in the case of the healthcare industry, could put people’s lives at risk.