The COVID-19 pandemic has shown society at its best: healthcare workers saving the lives of strangers, businesses making sacrifices to flatten the curve of infections, sewers making homemade PPE.
But it has also brought out some of humanity’s worst.
Hackers have unleashed an unprecedented wave of cyberattacks on a new glut of white collar workers operating in insecure home environments. They’re putting a new twist on popular penetration techniques — malicious domains, spam and ransomware — by manipulating fears of the coronavirus.
Their intense efforts to exploit weaknesses before businesses can clamp down are keeping cybersecurity companies like Trend Micro busier than ever. While the Irving, Texas-based firm was helping its employees transition to remote work, it found 737 examples of malware mentioning COVID-19 and close to one million spam messages referencing the virus in the first quarter of 2020. Malicious URLs masquerading as COVID-19 content saw 48,000 hits in the same period, and traffic on those sites spiked 260 percent from February to March, according to data gathered by the company.
Trend Micro Fast Facts
- Founded: October 24, 1989
- Focus: Cybersecurity
- Headquarters: Shibuya City, Tokyo, Japan
- Founders: Steve Chang, Jenny Chang, Eva Chen
- CEO: Eva Chen
Trend Micro isn’t just measuring these phenomena — it’s actively pushing back on them. Since late March, Trend Micro has discovered a potential cyberattack campaign masquerading as a COVID-19 information app, compiled an array of resources to help organizations secure their networks while employees work from home, and partnered with INTERPOL to fight pandemic-related cyberattacks. The company is also monitoring how hackers are leveraging coronavirus fears to access vulnerable systems.
On top of this increased workload, the company has overcome common work-from-home challenges experienced by much of the tech industry. Trend Micro’s globally distributed team was ahead of the game in remote operations, but some teams have been forced into hard pivots to address the loss of face-to-face interaction.
With the first hectic months behind them, CMO Leah MacMillan offered a retrospective on the company’s transition to working from home.
Leah MacMillan, CMO at Trend Micro
How is Trend Micro fostering company culture while working from home?
It would be very hard to create a corporate culture — especially across diverse cultures — in this environment. We are thankful to already have a strong, unique set of cultural values in place that are cherished by our employees — a foundation that has guided us in our communications at this time.
This new reality and global uncertainty affects every one of our employees differently. First and foremost, our approach is to be empathetic, creating an environment of understanding, support and encouragement. We’ve heard from employees across all cultures, that they have an increased need to feel connected and valued, with a shared sense of purpose.
Our senior-most executive team hosts weekly video sessions for all employees, highlighting recent product innovations, business successes or examples of how teams are staying connected. Employees are encouraged to join the chat, comment and ask questions. These calls provide a deep feeling of connection to the company direction and success, with active engagement and participation from employees around the world.
We keep our energy up, literally, by offering optional daily virtual workouts that include everything from yoga to body combat. Some of our team leaders help slow things down with Friday virtual happy hours, virtual gaming and even by sending pizza and puzzles to their employees’ homes for fun.
Finally, a key part of our culture that we are passionate about is giving back to the community. This strong sense of purpose seems even more important in these difficult times. For example, our employees initiated a substantial give-and-match donation program that will go to communities affected by COVID-19 and those working the front lines. One fundraising component is a stair-step Mt. Everest climb challenge. Generosity is even further catalyzed by a little friendly competition.
“We have worked quickly to help protect our organizations, offering free tools and resources to help them out during these challenging times.”
With most employees working from home, how has the nature of your work changed?
As a technology company with nearly 7,000 employees worldwide, we have long been power users of remote connection tools such as video conferencing — but this fact doesn’t entirely soften the void of organic or in-person sharing. I sympathize with industries that aren’t accustomed to these tools and are undoubtedly feeling even more of a jolt.
New challenges we have had to address span our back- and front-end teams, as well as our response to shifts in the industry as a whole. For our back-end teams, we had to ensure we had adequate infrastructure and bandwidth in place to conduct all remote working and operations securely.
Our front-end teams are accustomed to building relationships and advancing our sales pipeline through face-to-face interactions, including customer and partner engagements or industry events. With the sudden cancellation of all travel and in-person interactions, our teams needed to pivot to virtual sales engagements and events.
The cybersecurity industry as a whole is seeing an increase in cyber criminals looking to prey upon this overall situation. This abuse ranges from intercepting data from remote connection, to conducting email phishing scams and more. We have worked quickly to help protect our organizations, offering free tools and resources to help them out during these challenging times.