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Google data shows high interest in security and remote working

An analysis of the most Googled technology terms during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the scale of the cyber security challenge presented by the crisis

The technology priorities of UK businesses are centred squarely on the cyber security challenges presented by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, in particular those related to securing the millions of people around the country who are now working from home during the nationwide lockdown, which is entering its third week.

This is according to data drawn from Google Trends global search history data by Redscan, a City of London-based provider of managed threat detection, incident response and penetration testing services, which served to highlighted the extent to which many organisations have utterly failed to prepare a business continuity plan.

Currently, coronavirus-related phishing scams are more searched for in the UK than scams relating to global brands such as Amazon and Apple, and HM Revenue & Customs-related phishing scams are particularly widely searched for, possibly linked to the introduction of financial support packages for workers and businesses. This coincided with a spike in interest in the chancellor, Rishi Sunak.

“For many years, Apple has been the most searched-for term in relation to phishing campaigns, but at this moment it has been surpassed by Covid-19,” said Redscan CTO Mark Nicholls.

“Cyber criminals are treating the pandemic as a unique opportunity to target remote employees, who may be more vulnerable to social engineering away from the protection of an office network. During this difficult time, employee cyber awareness training and proactive network and endpoint monitoring are more important than ever.”     

Searches for “business continuity plan” ballooned in volume starting on 8 March 2020 and continuing through to 21 March, significantly higher than at any other time in Google’s history, offering some insight into how widely the pandemic has triggered panic among unprepared businesses.

Levels of interest in terms such as “remote working” and “remote access” also reached record highs, as did “VPN”, which was more searched for in the UK than Rishi Sunak was, noted Redscan. Levels of interest in “antivirus” also surged, temporarily reversing a steady decline.

Interest in collaboration tools is also peaking, with Zoom currently the most searched-for product, ahead of GoToMeeting, WebEx, Slack and Microsoft Teams.

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Zoom has also been under considerable pressure in the past week after high levels of scrutiny revealed a number of issues relating to data privacy, as well as several potentially dangerous security vulnerabilities

“Google’s search data tells a clear story of businesses trying to adapt to remote working and related security and technology challenges of greatest concern,” said Nicholls.

“A spike in business continuity plan searches is hardly a surprise, but it is also troubling to think that so many are Googling the term now. It suggests that many businesses did not already have a continuity plan in place, and now is hardly an ideal time to implement one. But better late than never.

“Ensuring that employees have the tools in place to work from home has been a priority of IT teams but it’s important that organisations are vigilant about the increased security risks and put appropriate controls and processes in place to mitigate them – such as ensuring that cloud platforms are appropriately configured and monitored.”

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