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The cyber security implications of COVID-19: Q&A with our CTO, Mark Gibbard

It’s fair to say that before Covid-19, cyber security probably wasn’t the biggest concern for most dealers in the Office Supplies Industry.

However, just as with many other industries and sectors nationwide, the pandemic has forced businesses to introduce new working practices to protect livelihoods and adapt during these turbulent times.

The nature of these new working practices – such as working from home – has meant that cyber security has fast become significantly more important. We’ve all become more aware of this over the past couple of months, with various reports of sophisticated attacks on well-established corporate companies.

To explore this topic in more detail and specifically from an office supplies dealer perspective, we’ve asked Mark, Office Power Chief Technology Officer, to answer a few questions.

Q: As the CTO at Office Power and EO Group, have you seen an increase in cyber-attacks on businesses since the Covid-19 pandemic started?

As unbelievable as it is, there have been many reports in the media of people trying to use Covid-19 as a way of extracting usernames, passwords and other forms of sensitive information from people.

This information is then used by criminals in many ways. For example accessing accounts or for making bogus loan applications.

You should be vigilant and aware of cyber-attacks regardless because they do happen frequently. But you need to be extra cautious at times like this because Covid-19 is the perfect Trojan Horse for scammers to use to get this type of information.

In fact, there have been so many of these attacks recently that the government have set up a dedicated UK GOV page.

Early in the crisis (Friday 20th March) City of London Police reported a 400% increase in scams as a result of coronavirus-related fraud.  Even my phone banking app has been warning me of such attacks.

Email is a common channel for these types of attacks. Fake emails claiming to be from a seemingly trusted source – like your bank – request information such as usernames and passwords.

At Office Power we use the latest network perimeter security technology, built using artificial intelligence, to stop these emails even getting to our staff.  We block them before anyone even sees them.

We also deal with customer data – not only our own – but also on behalf of our dealer partners. So, we’ve always taken cyber security extremely seriously, and investing in it has always been at the top of our list.

Q: Why do you think these attacks are happening at such a critical time?

Unfortunately, these unscrupulous members of society will use all the means at their disposal to their advantage, and Covid-19 is just another opportunity for them.

The rise in home working also offers a new insecurity which can be exploited. Most peoples’ home networks are not as secure as their place of work, so cyber criminals see this as an opportunity to attack when people are weak.

Q: Why do these cyber criminals target companies such as office supplies dealerships?

Cyber criminals are looking for the best opportunities to exploit.

As a generalisation, a cyber-criminal will assume it’s easier to infiltrate a smaller office supplies dealership than a corporate bank because they think the bank will have better security.

So, they think their chances of success are higher with an office supplies dealership.

That’s why working with a tech-savvy company like Office Power helps. We’re larger than the typical office supplies dealer and have access to the technologies which help to protect staff and customer data, that other dealers most likely won’t.

Q: What impact do you think the shift to homeworking will have on businesses and their security measures in the long-term?

The move to home working will have a huge impact on the office supplies industry, as the traditional office structure changes and more people work remotely.

From a purely business perspective dealers need to be thinking about how to service the home worker. Office Power provides the ideal solution for this with our user-friendly, mobile-ready websites and our dropship network.

From a security perspective, working from home makes cyber security even more complex because you have to deal with the insecurities in employee homes.

At Office Power we secure our team by using VPN (Virtual Private Network) technology, which means the home-worker can only access our network in a controlled manner.

We use the latest network technologies to prevent against intrusion and monitoring technologies to constantly fight against cyber criminals.

Q: What do you think dealers should consider when working with software (and hardware) providers to ensure their businesses are safe?

Important security considerations are encryption, network security like segregation and firewalls, anti-virus and regular 3rd party security testing.  We use all of these and more at Office Power, to ensure we minimise the number of vulnerabilities for ourselves and our dealer partners.

If you’d like to know more about Office Power and how we could help you during this time, get in touch with Chris Armstrong on 07789 004 158 or email chris.armstrong@officepower.net.

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