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May 28, 2020 | Tom Ballard

John McNeely shares five impacts of COVID-19 on cybersecurity

The East Tennessee Economic Council’s latest “After Hours” event late Wednesday afternoon provided some very useful insights on how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted cybersecurity, both now and going forward.

The speaker was John McNeely, Senior Vice President of Avertium and one of the Founders of Sword & Shield Enterprise Security that was acquired a year ago by Sunstone Partners and rolled into Avertium. During a fast-paced presentation followed by a robust Q&A, he identified five impacts: (1) one he called the “work from home movement”; (2) an increase in ransomware attacks; (3) the compliance conundrum; (4) the increasing importance of security technology; and (5) decisions about cybersecurity budgets.

Characterizing the period that started in mid-March as “an incredible event almost overnight,” McNeely predicted that “work from home is here to stay.” He said the rapid shutting down of offices and shifting to remote work made networks and the jobs of company administrators more decentralized, and many are still playing catch-up on cybersecurity.

“The increase (in ransomware attacks) should not come as too much of a surprise,” McNeely said, but noted that more of the phishing and scams are focused currently on the end user. That said, he added that it becomes very important for network administrators to ensure security as it relates to and for remote workers.

On the compliance front, McNeely said that “COVID-19 has changed the way companies do business around compliance,” and many are still playing catch-up.

Budgeting decisions about cybersecurity are also being impacted by the coronavirus as “a lot of companies are fighting for survival,” McNeely observed, adding that these organizations are being forced to make difficult decisions as to how they spend their resources.

As far as the future, he brought-up one of the conundrums that Americans are facing – security vs. privacy – as evidenced by discussions such as those related to contact tracing. McNeely also raised the question as to whether COVID-19 had brought an end to “office centricity” and, if so, to what extent.

He concluded the nearly two-hour event, delivered by the Lunchpool technology, with a statement that should not surprise anyone: “I can confidently say that hackers will keep hacking,” clearly emphasizing the continued importance of cybersecurity.

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