Since computers and the internet became an integral part of modern-day business, cybersecurity has been a crucial part of risk management.  Protecting sensitive files and data, as well as the private networks and systems used in an organisation, is critical, with the potential for significant or even irreparable damage, when a breach of cybersecurity occurs.

In the wake of the pandemic, many employers were forced to adapt to the new market environment, and remote working became the new normal.  Cybercriminals wasted no time in taking advantage of this expanded user-base and of the panic around COVID-19, to compromise or rip-off employers.  Even in industries that did not make a major shift to remote working, cyberthreats exponentially increased in 2020, with major breaches affecting Lion,[1] Isentia[2] and Toll Group (which suffered two separate ransomware attacks in the first half of 2020.)[3]

Avast, the digital security provider behind Avast Antivirus, noted that there had been a 10% increase of ransomware attacks in Australia during March and April 2020.  There has also been an increase of 51% in spyware and stalkerware globally from March through to June 2020, and adware on mobile devices has increased by 50% in the first quarter of 2020, with peaks in February, April and May.[4]

The increased risk relating to remote working and increased time online should not discourage employers from taking advantage of the ‘new normal’; the benefits associated with working from home are numerous and there is an expectation that some degree of working from home will continue even after the pandemic ends.[5]  Rather, employers should ensure risk assessments are up to date, relevant and recommended changes actioned without delay, to improve cybersecurity throughout industry and protect their businesses.  It is imperative that employers ensure up-to-date antivirus software is installed on all work systems, and that staff are educated in basic cybersecurity principles, such as password and email safety.  IRIQ Law offers a short online course that will provide an overview of these principles and is available to purchase from our website.

Businesses were caught off-guard in the early parts of 2020 with the sudden and rapid shift to remote working and an expanded online presence in almost all industries,[6] worsened by Australians being more vulnerable to phishing attacks due to a lack of proper education on cyberthreats.[7]  Cybercriminals have shown no signs of slowing their attempts to gain access to personal or sensitive data.  However, these threats are manageable and should not deter your business from adopting the modern hybrid work model.  Instead, as the threat of the pandemic slows, there is no better time to re-evaluate your cybersecurity and ensure that your company is protected against threats that will arise in 2021.


[1] Lion, ‘Lion Cyber incident update: 26 June 2020’, retrieved on 27 January 2021 at <https://lionco.com/2020/06/26/lion-update-re-cyber-issue/>.

[2]  Justin Hendry, ‘Isentia ransomware attack expected to cost at least $7 million’, IT News, retrieved on 27 January 2021 at <https://www.itnews.com.au/news/isentia-ransomware-attack-expected-to-cost-at-least-7-million-555472>.

[3] Toll Group, ‘Toll IT Systems update’, retrieved on 27 January 2021 at <https://www.tollgroup.com/toll-it-systems-updates>.

[4] Catherine Knowles, ‘Top cyber threats for Australia in 2020’, IT Brief, retrieved on 27 January 2021 at <https://itbrief.com.au/story/top-cyber-threats-for-australia-in-2020>.

[5] University of Sydney, ‘Australians want to work from home more post-COVID’, retrieved on 27 January 2021 at <https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2020/09/28/australians-want-to-work-from-home-more-post-covid.html>.

[6] Casey Tonkin, ‘Cyber attacks boom in 2020’, ACS Information Age, retrieved on 27 January 2021 at <https://ia.acs.org.au/article/2020/cyber-attacks-have-peaked-in-2020.html>.

[7] Denham Sadler, ‘Australians more likely to be swindled’, ACS Information Age, retrieved on 27 January 2021 at <https://ia.acs.org.au/article/2019/australians-more-likely-to-be-swindled-.html>.

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