Tech

IT expert warns: The home office is a danger to companies

In the Corona crisis, the German economy switched to home office wherever it can.

This puts the networks under great strain, making companies and their employees vulnerable to hacker attacks.

Marc Wilczek is the managing director of an IT security provider. He urges companies whose employees work from home to better protect them from cyber attacks.

The ongoing corona crisis means that large parts of the German economy are taking place in the home office. Far away from the offices that are actually intended for this. This not only means that families spend more time together, but also that data transfer on the Internet exceeds ordinary volumes many times over.

Via VPN, employees – sometimes just a handful, sometimes dozens, sometimes thousands – access their company networks, access internal applications and control programs on servers at the company’s headquarters, just as if they were on site.

What would normally take place in internal networks – away from the Internet and outside the office – is now routed through the Republic’s fiber optic and copper cables. In an interview with NewsABC.net, an IT security expert said that this poses major challenges for lines and networks that deliver hacking attacks to us and to companies.

An unstable, fragile network

Marc Wilczek is managing director at Link11, one of the leading IT security providers in Germany, and an expert for security in the network. He tells NewsABC.net that the use of Internet bandwidth by the home office is increasing dramatically: “There is a blatant amount of data going over the lines than is otherwise the case. This makes the connection unstable and fragile. ”With smaller data loads, such as would normally be sent through the lines, attacks could be warded off, but if“ the usage is very high, even the smallest attacks are enough to block the line and everything to paralyze. ”

Since the majority of companies work with VPN (i.e. virtual, private networks) and the system administrators also work from their home office because of the corona crisis, companies whose IT security precautions are out of date are particularly vulnerable. “Then there is hardware that has to be operated manually in the event of an attack. In the worst case, if the system administrators now work from home themselves, they would have to get into the car, drive to the company, check where the problem lies. This takes a lot of time and is associated with major economic losses because the entire company has been idle for so long. ”

So should the system administrators work in the company headquarters despite the corona virus? “No, not if possible,” says Wilczek. Because people always remain a weak point in certain areas. Wilczek says that people should work in the conception and in the analysis, but not directly if possible. Regardless of Corona, there was also a need to rethink automation, underpinned by algorithms and machine learning. “Algorithms could detect abnormalities in the background of the data exchange as attacks and intervene in milliseconds, no one can do that. Technology has to be used to support and assist people, ”says the IT expert. Link11 also offers exactly such automated security solutions for companies.

Wilczek and his colleagues would see thousands of such attacks every day. The damage to the German economy is enormous, the Federal Ministry for Security in Information Technology (BSI), in collaboration with the Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (Bitkom), came to this conclusion in a study from 2018, which shows that the damage could be up to 100 billion euros annually. More than half of the attacks originate from so-called bot networks.

Smart refrigerators and Industry 4.0

The attackers came up with a great deal to hide their identity. “The planet is flooded with smart devices like refrigerators that are not well protected,” says Wilczek. These networked devices can be combined into huge bot armies and attacks can be launched via them. “Then we can see which household appliance is responsible for such an attack, but not who has externally controlled the smart device in the household.”

Wilczek considers the manufacturers of smart devices to be accountable as a laudable, but politically unlikely, project as this requires a global consensus. Therefore, companies would have to protect themselves from such attacks.

In Germany, the whole thing comes to a head again because of the hype surrounding Industry 4.0, says Wilczek. “Industry 4.0 is a particularly big topic in Germany. The idea behind this is that there are more and more convergences between IT technology and operating technology. ” In the future, this means that attacks not only shut down IT, but can “also lead to a complete business interruption”.

5G also offers hackers new space to approach their targets. “We assume that we will see more attacks with more attack strength as soon as 5G is introduced across the board.” But that should not mean that we should forego 5G. But it does mean that one has to act against the risks.

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