The coronavirus has impacted everyone. Whether you’re in downtown Manhattan or a rural outpost, seemingly far from the problem, it is a global issue. During these times of biological viruses, we are also faced with problems stemming from computer viruses, malware, and other high-tech vectors. Since everyone is more active online than they’d normally be, you should probably be thinking more often about your relationship to cyber security. After all, if you’re working or otherwise interacting with the outside world, the chances are good that you’re doing so via the Internet.
COVID-19, the disease that stems from SARS-CoV-2, a newly discovered and very contagious coronavirus, is an illness that manifests as a severe respiratory tract infection in the worst of cases. The disease his highly communicable and is now a pandemic, or global epidemic.
The exact origins of the disease are still unknown. However, scientists do suspect that the disease originated elsewhere in the animal kingdom and then mutated, finding its way into the human population. The first major outbreak of COVID-19 was in Wuhan, China, but it is suspected that the virus could have been circulating well before that event.
COVID-19 is spread through interpersonal contact. In particular, it is known to transmit when an infected person is in close quarters with another. The disease spreads on the breath via respiratory droplets and when someone coughs or sneezes. When the drops land in the mouth or nose, infection is likely. It is also possible for droplets to land on surfaces, such as doorknobs or tabletops where they can transmit to another’s hand. When they touch their face, the virus might find a purchase that leads to infection.
As of April 6 2020, there are over 336,000 total known cases of COVID-19 in the United States; 9,624 deaths have been attributed to the disease. However, since testing is still relatively sparse, there are likely many more cases yet to be discovered and many more milder cases that will never be reported. Sources report that, so far, 4% of the known infected Americans have recovered. Globally, there have been over 1,200,000 known cases with around 21% recovered.
There is no specific ethnic group that is any more or less at risk for contracting or transmitting COVID-19. However, other factors such as old age and a compromised immune system play a significant role in the diseases outcome. Major risk factors include:
Once infected, the age group with the highest risk for severe illness and death are those aged 65 and over. Elderly people in long-term care facilities are especially at risk. This is not to say that younger persons are immune, they are not, but that older patients tend to have worse outcomes. The infection rates according to age group are thus:
Overall, women are reporting a higher rate of infection than males with 51% of cases attributed to females and 45% impacting males. The remaining 4% was not attributed to either sex. However, with those numbers, it is important to note that the rate of deaths among men has been reported to be higher than the rate of deaths among women in many places.
You are also more at risk for infection if you ignore social distancing guidelines and your risk dramatically increases if you travel by plane.
Coronavirus is a deadly disease. Its danger is compounded by its extended incubation period and high level of infectiousness. Infected people might not show any symptoms whatsoever for up to two weeks but be able to infect others for much of that time. Because of this, they might unwittingly spread the virus to people all over their town, on their train to work, or on airplanes. If you are a carrier of the disease and touch your face and then a surface, such as a door knob or tabletop, you might be leaving the virus behind for the next person. And there is no way to know if you are carrying the disease unless you get tested, which has not yet been offered on a widespread basis for those who aren’t showing symptoms.
The virus is known to survive for up to 6 hours on certain surfaces, such as stainless steel and plastics. It might also live in facial hair and on clothing. Thus, it is advised that everyone wash their hands on a regular basis. If you must venture out into public, you should wash your hands and you might also want to bathe and change clothes upon returning home. Place your worn clothes in a closed hamper and launder it as soon as possible, if not immediately.
Businesses are feeling a tremendous impact due to coronavirus. People are staying home and not driving, which has an immediate impact on the oil markets and local businesses, even if they aren’t closed due to their “non-essential” status. Social/physical distancing means that people are no longer attending concerts, eating in their favorite restaurants, or purchasing party supplies. The economic waves from this pandemic are countless.
Some businesses are able to remain in operation by relying on telecommuting technologies. However, when their methods are ad hoc or reliant on insecure connections, the threat to their cyber security is greatly increased. The teleconferencing application Zoom has already been infiltrated and compromised by bad cyber actors. Though the attacks amount to so much digital vandalism, they do interrupt productivity and may even traumatize some workers.
Some elementary teachers who are attempting to teach youngsters via Zoom have reported their students ditching class for Zoom conferences they create themselves. On the other hand, some yoga studios are able to continue to employ their teachers by using the software. This is a boon to home-bound yoga aficionados.
The opportunities for mischief are multiplying as more people are moving their work to the online medium. However, Zoom is acting fast to address these problems. Where their conferences were previously not protected by passwords, the company has added that layer of security in addition to cryptography and disabling the ability to scan for open meetings, which hackers used to find victims.
Since many workers are now working from home, it’s vital that their home Wi-Fi connections or networks be secured with strong passwords. The best passwords are created using a random string of letters and numbers that includes a symbol, such as a punctuation mark. It is also advised to refrain from using insecure technologies, such as Bluetooth, on one’s work laptop.
The pandemic, and the ensuing push to work from home, are creating more and more opportunities for cyber attackers. Malicious hackers have also chosen to exploit our increased reliance on healthcare systems. Ransomware attacks on hospitals are on the rise and both the Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization have likewise been victims of attempted attacks.
Since more workers are taking laptops home and are using their home connections to access servers at work, there are increased risks to corporate security. Home networks typically have weaker password protections that are easier for hackers to deduce. Some households even leave their networks unprotected for random hackers to find. Further, when workers are using their personal home computers for work, their children might inadvertently download viruses or malware during unsupervised screen time.
Thus, companies need to provide safeguards against such vulnerabilities. Something as simple as installing a secondary hard drive for a worker to use at home can save money and bolster security. It’s also vital to educate workers as to how they can create robust passwords for their home networks and to provide simple steps they can follow, such as using a non-work device to connect to Bluetooth at home as hackers can exploit that technology without any passcodes whatsoever.
To address these issues, federal law enforcement agencies have rallied to protect the public and the world of business. The FBI has been very vocal in its response to attacks on the teleconferencing software Zoom, and the Department of Homeland Security has issued a document to help executives address cyber security issues that may arise due to coronavirus.
The Coronavirus pandemic has seen a spike in cyber security attacks such as:
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a mass movement of workers to the world of telecommuting. This poses a new set of problems for businesses in terms of workplace efficiency, added costs for equipment, and new cyber security threats. Since the problem arose seemingly overnight, IT departments and cyber security professionals have had to scramble to find workable solutions to the problem.
Inevitably, as the period of social distancing goes on, businesses will discover how to better address telecommuting. While there may be problems in terms of new cyber-attacks, each organization will strive to address these issues, while hackers will shift their strategies.
Once the pandemic is under control and it becomes more feasible for people to return to work, it’s still likely that telework will remain a larger part of the corporate picture. While it has been creeping into the corporate landscape more and more over the years, the coronavirus pandemic has blown the doors wide open. Many workers prefer working from home, but others may decide that they’d rather spend their time in the office, or that a healthy balance is ideal.
Businesses will need to determine how to address certain issues such as hardware. When workers use their personal devices for work, there is an increased risk that those devices may be compromised. Companies have the option of providing proprietary, company-owned laptops or offering a compromise in terms of a secondary hard drive. These drives would be used exclusively for work purposes yet allow the worker to still use the same laptop to access their personal drive that houses their photos, music, and personal documents.
Employees will need to work with employers to create more secure Wi-Fi connections at home. This might be as simple as creating difficult passwords Those connections also need to be fast enough to support technologies such as teleconferencing software.
Remote work has long been the domain of traveling salespeople, consultants, and freelance workers. Now, however, more and more organizations are providing remote work opportunities to employees. This is a response to the growing popularity of telework. Companies such as WeWork have based their model around catering to independent workers, small startup companies, and telecommuters and many coffeeshops nationwide are now full of people working to complete assignments for their boss.
Websites such as flexjobs.com now cater to workers that prefer to work from home on a full-time, part-time, or freelance/project basis. This phenomenon has spurred employers to start providing telework opportunities for their new and existing workers. Now, many workers find that they spend a certain percentage of their workweek in the office and the remainder working from whichever Wi-Fi hotspot best suits them.
Here is a brief list of employment websites that cater to aspiring teleworkers:
Teleworking is a popular option for many high-tech workers. This is due to the fact that most tech issues are not bound to any specific physical place, or thing. Thus, workers can collaborate using email, chat platforms, or teleconferencing software from any place on the globe. In fact, many high-tech workers trot the globe and experience different cultures while completing their work for employers or clients back home.
Programmers specialize in specific computing languages and write code to augment existing programs, or sometimes they create whole applications. Programmers earn approximately $63,000 per year.
These workers are like the architects of software. They help design and create the vision for a new application. They might assign tasks to various teams of programmers and help bring all the work together as a single product. Software engineers earn an average salary of $85,000.
These IT workers help maintain and administer a network for their employers. They can log-in to their employers network from a remote location and assign passwords and user permissions while also checking on cyber security issues. Network administrations earn an average salary of $59,000.
Tech workers in this position help maintain a company’s databases. They might set permissions so that users don’t access more, or less, information than they need. They also ensure that the systems are easy to access and secure. Database engineers earn an average salary of $84,000.
The future for cyber security professionals is looking very good. Since there are always new threats to financial and other systems, businesses and government departments need professionals to help keep everything secure. In fact, it would seem that the profession has a very long shelf-life ahead. After all, cyber security professionals are fighting an endless war against tech-savvy foes who are always seeking to get a step ahead.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is expected to grow by approximately 32% through 2028. That means the agency expects a total of 35,500 new jobs to open between 2018 and 2028.
These numbers might not take into account how COVID-19 will impact the teleworking community and the ensuing need to secure those positions with cyber security measures. Thus, the BLS might need to revise its numbers upwards to account for future cyber security needs once this crisis is over. There may be entire consultancy firms that specialize in solving telecommuting problems for clients and their workers once the quarantine lifts and businesses assess just how much of their workforce they might be willing to offer work from home options.
Furthermore, the current field is rather limited due to the fact that computer science programs are still catching up to the demand for graduates prepared to face the demands of cyber security. This is changing rapidly, and governmental and other agencies are accrediting these programs so that employers and government departments know that they’re hiring candidates with top credentials.
It’s always a good idea to head back to school, but the present time offers particular advantages. These include the fact that you might already be home and maybe working online to begin with. You thus have more time and are more accustomed to being productive outside of the traditional work or school environments. If you start your online degree now you can easily form better habits for the months to come.
Note that you don’t necessarily need to take courses for the purposes of earning a degree or bolstering your resume. You might choose to take courses for pure personal enrichment. After all, no learning experience is ever wasted. You might take an online literature course that asks you to stretch your analytical abilities. Alternately, you might decide to tackle a topic in mathematics or computer science.
Since cyber security is such a hot topic, and is relevant to everybody’s life, you can seek out courses that will broaden your understanding of that issue. Consider that you can take cyber security courses that go deep into the technical details or you could take more general courses that will help you protect yourself when you set up a home Wi-Fi network or access the internet at a local coffee shop.
There are online cyber security courses that are introductory which you might be able to complete in an afternoon. If you are interested, you might move on from there and take courses that go deeper into the subject. You can augment your cyber security studies with other courses in networking or computer languages, too. There are loads of certificate courses available online as well as fully-accredited college programs that will prepare you for a new chapter in your career.
This time of social distancing is a great time to assess your career and education. You might first take a few free or affordable MOOC courses to see what direction feels the best for you. That’s a great way to fill your extended idle time with learning and personal enrichment. No matter what you learn, the very act of learning will help you no matter what field you’re in.
You might not be familiar with the acronym, MOOC. It stands for Massive Open Online Courses and they represent a new wave in education. Furthermore, they can be a great boon when you’re stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, during the quarantine period, many providers have expanded access to their courses with free trial periods and more.
Coursera, for example, has made certain courses and certificates free for everyone. These courses include topics pertaining to mental health and well-being, but also cloud computing and public health. If you are a current high school or college student, you can enhance your learning with courses that should parallel your classroom work. Who knows? You might discover a new passion through some of these free courses. Since Coursera is making these free, you can complete them with no cost, or you can pay a small fee to earn a certificate that you can share and proudly list on your resume.
You can also find a healthy helping of free courses at Linux Academy. They specialize in high-tech MOOCs and every month they offer free classes. For instance, you might take free courses on Big Data, Amazon Web Services, Linux Operating System, and many more. Linux Academy has launched many terrific careers.
Keep in mind that platforms like EdX and Coursera normally offer courses that are free to take. Under normal circumstances you only need to pay if you wish to earn a certificate. When you pay for a course, you might also feel more motivated to complete the course in a timely fashion.