Under the Cover of COVID-19, Hackers are Stepping Up Their Criminal Activities in a Big Way and Exposing Security Cracks in Legacy VPNs

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Since the COVID-19 pandemic started taking a firm grasp over the world it has forced companies to accelerate their efforts for enabling their employees to work from home (WFH).  As a result, cybercriminals have taken advantage; exploiting the emerging opportunities and vulnerabilities that have multiplied as workers do work from the less fortified confines of their home “offices”.
According to an article by helpnetsecurity, “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cybercrime has been the most visible and striking compared to other criminal activities.  Criminals active in the domain of cybercrime have been able to adapt quickly and capitalize on the anxieties and fears of their victims.  Phishing and ransomware campaigns are being launched to exploit the current crises and are expected to continue to increase in scope and scale.”

More statistics on this are provided by i24news out of Israel, who have stated that in just the past two weeks, the number of daily attacks related to the Corona virus have increased from a few hundred to more than 5,000 with the average currently at more than 2,600 attacks per day.

How is this affecting security for the corporates and other organizations that have seen the number of their employees working from home skyrocket?  One major result is outlined by a a recent article on betanews.com which warns that with the skyrocketing VPN usage and issues of internet overload, security and scalability to handle this is greatly lagging.  With COVID-19 rapidly transforming the globe, forcing the largest number of people to work remotely in history, and with millions of people connecting to their corporate networks from their homes; it is no wonder network infrastructures around the world are being taxed at levels never seen before.

The big threat lies in the legacy Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology that has always provided the backbone to working remotely.  Over the past 30 years, legacy VPNs “have enabled secure, remote access to the internet through a point-to-point connection by creating an encrypted ’tunnel’ through which IP traffic flows.”  The downfall, however, is that because they provide access to the organizations entire network in order for them to access company resources, this makes all organizations using the legacy VPNs more vulnerable to attacks and data breaches.

With the massive numbers now using the legacy VPN technology, more than ever before, cracks are starting to emerge in the technology as the solutions “were not built to scale to support millions of users nationally or globally”.  In the US alone, there has been an upwards of 53% increase in the usage of VPNs due to the number of state governments mandating work-from-home policies; and this is creating an unprecedented stress test on the VPN technologies.  Combine that sudden spike in VPN usage and a resultant slowdown in internet access and reduced quality of service from the massive volume of users and there is a disaster just waiting to happen.

The big concern is the lack of security in legacy VPNs.  For example, NordVPN had a breach recently where an attacker gained access to the TLS key ‘which opened the door and exposed the unencrypted network to hackers”.  “In this case, the intrusion went undetected for over a month due to a lack of activity logs.”  In addition, users are typically not restricted to specific network resources, ‘making VPNs another singular point of failure with respect to identity access and credential management.  There is no segmentation, audit or control.’

Verbatim text from betanews.com: “Critical VPN limitations include a lack of network segmentation, traffic visibility, on-premises user security and straightforward network security.  VPNs are also not suited for dynamic networks because they require computer hardware, constant management and cannot easily adjust to network or server changes.”  “The new challenge for virtually any company I how to provide secure and reliable employee access without draining IT resources and budgets, especially remotely.  Organizations must look beyond traditional VPNs to alternatives that can be quickly deployed and configured via the cloud to provide device and application configurability, as well as accessibility, increased security, privacy and user-access control granularity and analytics.”

The article goes on to outline the new cloud-based network security model defined by research firm Gartner, Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), which combines multiple network technologies delivered as a service and which supports dynamic secure access to all organizational assets.

This is where Wedge Networks and its recently launched Wedge Absolute Real-time Protection (WedgeARP) Secure Remote Office Solution comes into play.  Based on the WedgeARP platform, it is a cloud-managed, on-premises or cloud-enforced security service offering that provides a vast array of optimized Security-as-a-Service features to enterprises; enabling effective security solutions for any cloud-connected computing devices.  The Wedge Secure Remote Office solution provides real-time threat protection for all types of endpoints in different types of networks (mobile data, 5G, SD-WAN, SASE, and smart-city/IIoT).  It enables situational awareness for the entirety of managed networks, with security event tracing, rapid response, centralized policy management, reporting, and analytics; all of the things that the legacy VPNs are missing.

As organizations face difficulties ramping up their WFH infrastructures, Wedge’s Secure Remote Office product provides the easy to deploy and enable solution.  It integrates Microsoft Azure Virtual Wan with WedgeARP, along with Microsoft’s high quality VPN connection; providing Wedge’s cutting-edge real-time cybersecurity services that legacy VPNs are missing.  To find out more about how WedgeARP Secure Remote Office solution could benefit your organization, contact us at: info@wedgenetworks.com.  For those organizations who already have a VPN infrastructure, WedgeARP can be easily deployed into their VPN Cloud to protect all connected systems.  For those organizations who have not yet implemented a VPN infrastructure, Wedge provides professional services to help quickly set up remote offices with Microsoft Azure vWAN, secured by WedgeARP.  During this current COVID-19 Pandemic, Wedge is doing its part to step up and battle the increased hacker activities by helping to close the cracks and security holes that legacy VPNs are showing.

About Wedge Chief Scientist

Husam Kinawi, Chief Scientist Dr. Kinawi has a PhD and MSc in Computer Science from the Universities of Calgary, Canada and London, UK. In 1997, he co-founded Mpower Technologies Inc., a wireless telecommunications software company. In 1999, Dr. Kinawi co-founded ActiveIq.com (NASDAQ: AIQT), a Boston-based e-Business applications firm. Dr. Kinawi has over seventeen years of research and development experience working with industry leaders such as Newbridge (Alcatel), Siemens, United Technologies, and Apple in the areas of distributed information systems, embedded applications and wireless Internet solutions. Dr. Kinawi has also spoken at several major conferences, published several research papers, and is the holder of several patents in the area of mobile and wireless devices.
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