Since the coronavirus pandemic forced companies to enact sweeping work-from-home policies, the number of organizations whose devices have been compromised and forced to engage in malicious activity have at least doubled, according to new research released today.

The researchers behind the study – conducted jointly by Arctic Security and Team Cymru – believe many of the affected organizational devices may have been compromised with malware prior to the COVID-19 crisis, but were blocked from connecting to the internet for malicious command-and-control purposes by corporate firewalls. Home-based VPN connections, however, do not afford the same protections, and so now these devices are being activated, the researchers explain in a report (available here and here).

"Now those [botnet device] zombies are outside firewalls, connected to their corporate networks via VPNs, which were not designed to prevent malicious communications," said Lari Huttunen. senior analyst with Arctic Security, in a press release. The research report described corporate firewalls as functioning like dams obstructing malicious connections. But "when you rely on a VPN, it’s like digging a ditch to the side of that dam," Huttunen added in the report.

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