How Coronavirus Could Affect Your Network Security and Business Continuity

In an unprecedented response to a new human virus, upwards of 60 million people are currently in quarantine in China and the Chinese government is engaged in a desperate battle to get control of COVID-19, the newly emerged coronavirus.  At the time of writing, even the exact time and place of emergence is not clear and crucial factors such as the virus’s CFR (Case Fatality Rate) and R0 (rate of transmission) are still in debate.


While on a different level than human health, computer viruses behave similarly and take advantage of human viruses in dangerous ways. Computer and network invasions appear suddenly with uncertain origins and spread like wildfire, causing panic and crippling computers and networks on a global scale. While the release of Netflix’s show Pandemic is pure coincidence to what is occurring in the real world, the emergence of “coronavirus” computer viruses is not.  For the security of your network and business continuity, it is wise to be considering steps to protect against both human and computer virus attacks.


Is This the Big One?


For years, respected voices in the medical and research communities have been telling us to prepare for ‘The Big One’, a virulent pandemic that will sweep across the world with a death toll to match that of the Spanish Flu.  From 1918 to 1920 between 50 and 100 million people died – 3 to 5% of the world’s population at that time. So far this century, we have had a couple of near misses with H1N1, SARS, MERS and ZIKA. Even Zaire Ebola which claimed over 11,000 lives and devastated West Africa in 2013-2016 was brought under control before it was able to gain a foothold in other countries. While we don’t know if this latest virus is “The Big One”, the facts about the trajectory of COVID-19 are alarming enough without adding any scaremongering stories to the mix.


Similarly, in the computer virus world, many viruses have rapidly affected millions of systems. In the past 20 years or so, we’ve seen the “I love you” virus, MyDoom, Melissa Worm, Slammer, Conflicker, and Koobface all before the ransomware variants. Cryptolocker, WannaCry, and Petya are a few examples of those. A lot of these attacks were successful because of vulnerabilities in computer software or operating systems, but most of them targeted something more susceptible: humans.


Humans, by nature, are curious and concerned, especially regarding health and financial implications. Hackers know this and are currently exploiting human nature by hiding malicious code in emails and websites that appear to have information related to the novel coronavirus. Often the emails appear to come from a legitimate, or even known, source and claim to have information you need to know related to the real virus.


Threats to Business as Usual


As a Global Data Vault customer, we want to ensure you are aware of risks to your network, and how to best protect your data. If you have Enhanced Data Protection enabled, you know that we take this protection a step further in protecting against insider threats (accidental or intentional), should your organization become compromised. We are experienced with helping you through both natural and man-made disasters, and we will continue to hold the reliability of your data in the highest regard.


That said, if the current virus continues to propagate, it could have far-reaching consequences, affecting your IT infrastructure in measured ways, and beyond.


Much as we hope this is not the case, now is the time to consider how – if it would happen in the United States — a full-blown pandemic might affect your business. Take the time to prepare your staff, your shareholders, your clients and your NETWORK for possible outcomes.


How the COVID-19 Virus Could Affect Your Workforce


A non-exhaustive list of things to consider:


– Staffing


  • Your workers may become infected, or stay home due to fear of infection in public or common areas, or to care for sick family members.
  • Some, especially those who rely on public transport, may simply be too scared to commute to work. This will make absenteeism an issue.
  • If your staff decides to work from home, now you could be exposing your network to new devices. And then let’s not ignore the risk of staff falling prey to a phishing attack posing as important information regarding the virus.
  • Alternatively, a particularly conscientious member of staff, knowing you are short-handed, may struggle into work despite being highly infectious. 


– Transportation & Supplies


  • During the pandemic, how long will public transport or delivery services remain unaffected? Do you need to consider a stockpile of your most crucial supplies?
  • Are delays in fulfilling orders likely, especially if you source components from China or any other country that is likely to be affected by manufacturing and/or shipping delays during this crisis?


– Communication


Hackers use misinformation to spread their own viruses, so education of the masses is key – about both human and computer virus attack.


  • Do you have a method of immediately informing all staff of any developments? Many group chat options are available for mobile phones but having a “call tree” with clearly defined lines of communication is important.
  • Access to expert information on the situation, as well as confidence in the executive management to handle business continuity, will go a long way to keep your organization running smoothly. Although diseases like COVID-19 are difficult to prepare for because human bodies are complicated machines, gathering information from respected sources can help you stay informed. The following links connect to the Twitter accounts of experienced virologists and epidemiologists. Their posting on matters related to the new pathogen are educated and careful. Rather than whipping up alarm and panic, they offer a measured insight into developments.


Ian M. Mackay, PhD, Scientist and an adjunct Associate Professor (University of Queensland) with a PhD in virology.


Marc Lipsitch, Professor of Epidemiology with primary appointment in the Department of Epidemiology and joint appointment in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Harvard T.H. Chan


Julia Belluz, award-winning health journalist and public speaker.


How Do I Protect My Business?


While computer viruses are also complicated and can appear and propagate quickly, you can be as proactive as possible by implementing best practices for IT:


  • Keep antivirus software and definitions up to date.
  • Remind staff NOT to fall prey to click bait regarding the virus
  • Apply operating system and other software patches
  • Use a good firewall, spam filter, and perform regular backups
  • Store a copy of your backups offsite


As part of the services Global Data Vault provides, we will always be there to help your business continue running during any type of emergency. Global Data Vault has been through natural and man-made disasters and can guide you through the DRaaS process to ensure recoverability in the time of need.