Cybersecurity-Microsoft Hack

In this Jan. 28, 2020, file photo a Microsoft computer is among items displayed at a Microsoft store in suburban Boston.

(The Center Square) – The pandemic has brought about an increased dependency on digital technology, along with increased opportunities for crime.

Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the new ways businesses, employees, institutions and residents are operating, underlining the need for more cybersecurity knowledge, education and workers, Mass Live reported.

October wrapped up Cyber Month in Massachusetts.

Stephanie Helm, MassCyberCenter director at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech), said as businesses geared up to meet the challenges of the pandemic, remote access technology was implemented quickly, but maybe not securely.

“A challenge was the increased intensity of the cyberattacks by the hackers to try to find those vulnerabilities that might exist and take advantage of them,” Helm told The Center Square.

During the pandemic, the state has seen thousands of instances of financial fraud related to unemployment benefits.

Adversaries have been trying to capitalize on the confusion, she said.

“Pretty much everybody has been on the target,” Helm said.

Another attack that ratcheted up was ransomware, she said. Even before the pandemic, ransomware was a problem – in 2019, a survey conducted in Massachusetts by NBC10 found that one in six municipalities had been attacked by ransomware, Mass Live reported.

Now, it’s much worse, according to Helm.

“Because of COVID, health care and hospitals were a high priority target for the ransomware guys because they knew how desperate the health care system was to provide services, and they were fairly confident if they could get into somebody’s system and lock it up, they would easily pay the ransom rather than the take the time to rebuild their system,” she said.

State agencies, businesses and municipalities have all been targeted.

In 2020, Massachusetts residents lost roughly $100 million, according to the FBI, as reported by Mass Live. The FBI also reported a steep curve up in the number of reported incidents of cyberattacks from 2015 to 2021, according to Helm.

Businesses and others are now taking time to address the problem.

“What Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) are doing now is really trying to go through and look at their architecture and say, ‘OK, this has been working, but is it as secure as we want it?'” Helm said.

Over the course of the past year, an estimated 13,000 cybersecurity online jobs listings have been opened, she said. The increased rate of attacks is causing more companies to realize they need a dedicated employee to address that, notes Helm.

“You can have a little bit of experience or a lot of experience; a little bit of education, a lot of education, and you’ll be able to find a job,” Helm said.

Talent development is something MassTech has been working on, encouraging apprenticeship and internship programs and promoting STEM week. MassTech also organized a cybersecurity mentorship program that recruits mentors and matches them with college students studying cybersecurity.