Home M3AAWG Blog Empty Streets, Sleepless Nights and Everyone's Online (Including the Bad Guys)

Author: Joe St Sauver, Ph.D., M3AAWG Sr Technical Advisor

We're in the middle of a crazy time in history, and if you’re feeling stressed, that's totally understandable. Our hearts go out to those who have been impacted by the virus  and we urge you to hang tough. We're going to get through this, and so will you.

We also want to explicitly recognize that even if you're in a part of the country where COVID-19-related impacts have been limited to-date, you're still probably navigating some big changes in your life.

Most of us, even the most introverted of us, have never had to spend weeks confined to our own homes. We've always been free to go grocery shopping, have some friends over to play bridge or cribbage, catch a concert or game, or have drinks on Friday after work with coworkers. Now, suddenly, we're all basically under "house arrest" (even though we've committed no crime).

Some of us are stepping in as teachers, helping to keep our children learning while burning off a seemingly endless supply of energy normally drained by soccer practice or theater rehearsals or band practice or whatever.

And suddenly we're all forced to do more online. It would be nice if the bad guys would refrain from attacking Internet users during this crisis, but that's not how the world works -- many bad guys and gals, particularly in the third world, are struggling, too. Tourism has dried up. Borders are closed. Fewer potential victims are on the street, and most homes and apartments are now occupied. Targets of criminal opportunity in the "real world" have dried up.

So how do the bad actors adapt? In many cases, they’ll be going online, too -- after all, the Internet is still open for business, good or bad, even if the brick-and-mortar world is largely "on pause."

That's why it is more important than ever that you be careful online.

You've heard it all before, but we still want to review the basics:

  • When did you last back your devices up? If it's been a week (or you can't remember when you last backed stuff up), take a backup now! If you get hit by ransomware, or your system dies or is stolen, you'll be SO glad you've got a relatively-current backup!

  • Keep your computer and other devices patched up-to-date, too. Your office admins may have taken care of that for you on your centrally managed devices, but if you're now working from home on your own devices, congratulations: you've just been promoted to be your own system and network administrator. Just like coming to appreciate just how tough a job teachers have, the current crisis will bring home why your normal system and network admins deserve a big "THANK YOU" and a beverage of their choice when we're all back to normal.

  • Consider using a password manager, and take advantage of multifactor authentication when it's offered.

  • Malware of all sorts remains a problem, so ensure your antivirus program is active and up-to-date. Yeah, it's not perfect, but it will at least help to reduce some threats.

  • Be skeptical and Internet savvy: YOU are your own best defense against phishing. Don't let anyone scare you or try to rush you into making a big mistake. Use a little common sense, too: your comptroller is not stuck overseas, particularly these days, and will never need you to send him or her a replacement laptop or fifteen hundred dollars in prepaid gift cards -- or his or her password.

  • Take care of yourself, too. You may be used to an ergonomic chair and keyboard at work, but using a laptop from the family couch is a whole new ball game. Don't survive COVID-19 only to end up benched with back or neck problems or carpal tunnel syndrome.

There’s a lot of noise out there right now now, so it’s imperative that we stay informed but skip the scams and hype. Here are some COVID-19 resources to consider:

  • The World Health Organization's Coronavirus website
  • The United State's main Coronavirus website
  • The Centers for Disease Control
  • Your State governor's website, and your state's public health agency. Familiarize yourself with these resources.
  • Your city or county government may also have additional information, recommendations or restrictions for you.
  • You may also find the live daily report from the President's Coronavirus Task Force to be helpful. This may be carried on your preferred cable or over the air TV station, National Public Radio and its various local syndications; those broadcasts are also often carried online via Youtube and similar services.

Stay safe, and think about what you can do to be kind to your family, friends, coworkers and those less fortunate than we are. We'll get through this.


The views expressed in DM3Z are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect M3AAWG policy.