Cybersecurity and the COVID-19 pandemic — A DIGITAL-MEDICAL JUXTAPOSITION

IN its 18th year internationally (6th year in Jamaica), October is again being celebrated as Cybersecurity Awareness Month. The main purpose is to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity, ensuring that we all have the resources needed to be safer and more secure online. In preparation for the range of activities that we will be involved in so as to continue playing our part in informing and educating our nation on these cybersecurity matters in the midst of debates raging about a range of topics associated with the novel coronavirus pandemic, we paused to consider the similarities between fighting cybercrime and fighting the novel coronavirus.

1. It started with a virus?

Whether it the first telegraphic message ( What hath God wrought ) that Samuel F B Morse sent on May 24, 1844 or it the first-ever phone call made by Alexander Graham Bell on March 10th in 1878 that should be considered as the modern foundation of information transmission, we are not sure, but whichever one, it was the beginning of global communication as we now know it. Where there is valuable information, there is someone who wants to access it by any means necessary. It is no longer just a telephone call and a telephone message — modern businesses are globally connected via the Internet and we must do what it takes to protect our systems and the information that we process. In 1983 a term was coined to describe the malicious software (malware) programme that loads into our computers without our knowledge and performs malicious actions — they called it the computer virus. This global pandemic is also caused by a virus.

2. Global

This computer virus is written to change how our computers operate and it is designed to spread from computer to computer, which is much like a flu virus or in this case, the SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 that spreads itself from host to host. Similarly, in the same way that flu viruses cannot reproduce without a host cell, computer viruses cannot reproduce and spread without attaching to some form of data such as a file or document. With all our global connectivity, malware can be transmitted globally with the click of a button. In the same way, all the known existing medical viruses have also gone global because of our worldwide interconnectedness.

3. In denial or maladaptive?

”It's fake”, “It's a scare tactic”, “Won't happen to me” are some of what thousands of people said when computer viruses and malware attacks where on the rise all across the world. This sounds very similar to what thousands are now saying as the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Let us stretch the use of a medical term often employed for some category of folks who deny that COVID-19 exists, in order to describe what we see with some of our cybersecurity customer situations. Maladaptive behaviour is behaviour that prevents you from making necessary changes and adjustments that are in your own best interest. Cybersecurity awareness training is one of the most useful tools to reduce the risk of attacks in today's workplaces. Responsible governments worldwide are doing their best to carry out public education on the necessary protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Next week we take a look at a few more similarities between cybersecurity threats and coronavirus threats.

Technology concept: Computer generated with Internet of things graphic on the screen on stilish workplace. All graphics are made up.

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