As I’m sure we all know, 2020 holds a lot of changes – the presidential election, the rise of 5G mobile data and autonomous driving, and now, the Coronavirus epidemic.
The pneumonia-like Coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan, China and has since then broken into the U.S. with 60 total reported cases across 12 states and the virus resulting in six deaths.
With more cases being reported by the day in the U.S., companies and organizations are being forced to consider the realities this outbreak could ensue. According to an article published by Inc., “in countries like China, where the virus originated, workplaces have already shut down in an effort to limit or slow the transmission of the disease.”
Now that the virus has reached our country, the CDC is encouraging companies and organizations to take preventative action and consider strategic plans to continue operations while simultaneously keeping employees safe. It is no longer a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when.’ The time to consider the ramifications for your company and organization, past the obvious health concerns, is now. Though, the numbers are still low, and are not quite cause for panic yet, it is definitely the time to begin preparing. And we’re not posting this article as an entity completely removed from the situation. In fact, right in our back door, two Fulton County, Georgia citizens have been diagnosed with COVID-19. (Read here for further details about the two cases). Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts reassured the public that there are plans in place and that the county is coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and the state health department.
But there is a lesson to be learned from the Interim Fulton County Health Director, Dr. Elizabeth Ford.
“We’re trying to create prevention messaging, not panic messaging,” said Ford.
For many companies and organizations, preparation and prevention means establishing a plan to continue business as usual, even if we get to a point where is it no longer deemed safe for employees to physically come into work for a period of time.
The threat of Coronavirus poses an even further threat to jurisdictions across the U.S. Not only are cities, towns and counties having to establish outbreak plans in the event that COVID-19 becomes a pandemic, there is another facet of this virus that could affect jurisdictions even more prevalently than the sickness itself.
The vast majority of jurisdictions across the U.S. are still utilizing legacy, on-premise software systems. So, what does that have to do with anything mentioned above? A lot, actually.
If the CDC or World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement saying it is no longer advised for citizens of your state to travel to work or school, what would your jurisdiction do? If you are still running manual paper processes and operating on an on-premise system created in 1994, chances are your jurisdiction’s operations would essentially shutdown.
Though this is a worst-case scenario, we all need to plan for the worst. Jeff Gaynor, former Director of the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Homeland Security and current President of American Resilience, invites jurisdictions to reflect on the question “what’s important to you and how long can you go without it?” This question is posed to incite jurisdictions to think differently about ransomware, critical infrastructure risk, reliance and the resilience imperative.
But a little insight into best business practices for resiliency and business continuity plans – most include reliance on cloud computing. Operating in a true-cloud environment as well as having a well-documented plan ensures little to no interruption of your constituents’ services.
True-cloud technology only requires a device and an internet connection, which means, even if it was no longer safe for you and your fellow employees to physically come into city hall, operations could still carry on as usual from the comfort of your homes. Business licenses would still get processed, reports would still be easily accessible and data would remain secure regardless if the IT team is physically present.
In an article posted by the Seattle Times, it states “with more people in self-quarantine to avoid contracting or spreading the illness (COVID-19), cloud-based applications for telecommuting […] could see even more usage.”
In addition to the rise of employees electing to work from home out of concern for their safety, a less reported on facet to the rise of Coronavirus are the rise of emerging phishing attacks. Informed hackers are trying to capitalize on fears employees have about the COVID-19 crisis and what their employers are doing to respond.
“At the moment, organizations around the world are communicating with their workforces about coronavirus in areas such as (i) updated travel policies, (ii) work at home requirements, and (iii) cleaning best practices. Businesses also might be adjusting or changing plans for conferences and other business initiatives in response to the reported spread of COVID-19. Hackers do their research and see the opportunity. Through social engineering, they can target employees who in the current environment might be more likely to respond to an executive’s email seeking action on a coronavirus-related topic.” (The National Law Review)
The unfortunate truth is as this virus is hitting search engine news headlines, cybercriminals are jumping at the chance to launch images, graphics and realistic-looking domains as part of various phishing and others malicious campaigns (Cybersecurity Insiders). For example, cybercriminals are sending out phishing emails that contain domain names similar to those used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Data Breach Today). And with 2019 being the year GovTech dubbed the ‘year ransomware targeted state & local government’, we can expect even more targeted attacks in 2020. The Coronavirus worldwide outbreak has just served as a catalyst and easy target for these cyber-attackers.
With the outbreak in infancy stages in the U.S., now is the time to consider the effects of Coronavirus on your jurisdiction past the health concerns and begin taking preventative action. Secure, true-cloud technology is the solution to mitigate both of these problems. When your jurisdiction is centered around an innovative, powerful and safe software solution, the questions of ‘how will we continue work if there’s a statewide quarantine?’ and ‘is my data protected from opportunistic cyber attackers latching onto the Coronavirus frenzy?’ are answered.
A true-cloud ERP and community development software solution provides jurisdictions with the option for work and operations to continue despite the possible need to work from home as well as peace of mind as cloud solutions are essentially ransomware resilient.
To stay up to date on Coronavirus news, check out this worldwide map of Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE.