Jerrod Chong

Minecraft or math lessons: which one could be the cause of your company’s next social engineering attack?

Your child’s math lesson is a clear and present threat to your company data, and believe it or not, their Minecraft addiction could very well be the cause of your next enterprise-grade social engineering attack.

In the past few weeks, millions of children returned to online learning, and simultaneously — and perhaps unknowingly — your company’s cyber attack surface has grown exponentially. Children are borrowing their parents’ old unpatched laptops, downloading or signing in to a half-dozen new learning apps, and after Zoom school is out for the day, some are settling in for an evening of gaming or video streaming. Meanwhile, frazzled parents are logging into the same learning apps from their corporate laptops, or checking their work email from a personal device during virtual back-to-school night. 

The ease with which a hacker can move from a personal account to a corporate one is becoming increasingly apparent, and the combination of remote work and school isn’t helping your organization’s case. For anyone tasked with protecting their organization from malware and cyber security breaches, here is what you need to consider during the 2020 back-to-school season.

Your employees’ families are your users now, too.

You can’t be sure that the person logging into your company-issued laptop is actually your VP of sales, or their 10-year-old child with a homework deadline. In the same way, you also can’t be sure that a normally-cautious employee in accounting isn’t accessing your finance system from the same device that someone else in their household used for an epic two hours of video gaming just the night before. 

No matter which way you slice it, your employees’ family members may be using your corporate PCs for school purposes, and employees may be logging into work apps from personal devices. 

Your users are more vulnerable to a phishing attack.

Remote learning is a patchwork of hastily assembled apps and online services, each requiring separate logins. It’s confusing, and hackers thrive on confusion. It’s easy for an attacker to spoof one of these services and issue a fake password reset that harried parents and kids will fall for. And in general, we humans are much more susceptible to social engineering attacks in times of fear and uncertainty (hackers thrive on those too). 

There’s no line between personal account takeovers and enterprise security breaches.

With the blurring of home and work screen time, it’s much easier for a hacker with access to a user’s personal account (a learning app, a gaming account, or Gmail) to gain credentials for a corporate one using simple spoofing techniques. As security pros know, of course, this is not new — many major enterprise breaches have begun with a compromised personal account. But now, it’s so much easier and faster for a hacker with access to a work computer to log onto a corporate VPN with phished credentials or read a user’s work email when users are at home. 

With these considerations in mind, the way we approach enterprise security must change. Gone are the days of protecting your most privileged users. It doesn’t matter how the hackers get in your corporate network, the point is, once they’re in they can go almost anywhere they please — and hackers will always take the path of least resistance. 

To remain secure amidst remote working and beyond, enterprises must adopt a zero trust mentality and authenticate every user, every time, on every service. This must be done with a form of strong authentication, like YubiKeys, that cannot be spoofed by email phishing attacks or man-in-the-middle attacks, and for productivity’s sake, must be almost seamless to the user.

So, Minecraft or math lessons? Either could be the social engineering attack that invites hackers into your corporate data. One thing is sure —unless you have strong authentication enabled for all remote employees, hackers will capitalize on the current situation and find a way in. And don’t forget to restart your computer or browser after a patch is available!

To deploy YubiKey strong authentication across your entire organization, regardless of employee location, read more about YubiEnterprise Services.