By Iris Lin • April 22, 2020

IT MSPs : The Unexpected First Responders

During a global pandemic such as COVID-19 - where no one, regardless of race, gender, age or status is spared from harm, one question remains: who is truly essential? What industries are crucial to the continuation and functional existence of our society, besides the obvious ones? The answer isn’t what you’d expect.

Grocery store employees. Amazon, UPS, and FedEx personnel and delivery services. Public transportation and sanitation workers. Communications providers. IT managed service providers. A list of professions many wouldn’t have expected to join the metaphorical “Pandemic Essential Service” Mount Rushmore where first responders, hospital/healthcare workers and law enforcement reign supreme. Unexpected, sure, but nevertheless proven vital to the functioning survival and continuance of our everyday lives.

“The Information Technology Sector has been identified as one of the 16 Essential Crucial Infrastructure Workers during COVID-19. If your occupation or company falls under one of the 16 critical sectors, you “have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.” – Christopher C. Krebs, CISA Director

In a previous article, I discussed the recent upsurge of coronavirus Malware on the web. Cyber hackers have been taking advantage of COVID-19’s impact and targeting victims directly through online information outlets, baiting key words and relevant search results with typo-squatting strategies and phishing email attacks. This post expands on the critical role IT professionals play during a catastrophe, whether it be fielding web schemes and acting as “technical first responders” to coronavirus related malware and disaster recovery endeavors, or as technological pioneers shaping our societal future.

Picture this worst-case scenario: a person is infected with coronavirus, and while googling their symptoms online, they accidentally click on a phishing link that encrypts their data and shuts down their network. The situation immediately mutates into the worst of two worlds: a physical virus has overtaken their body, while a cyber virus compromises their computer system. If someone is having difficulty breathing, 911 will send an ambulance to take them to the hospital. If your device or network has been compromised by malware, your service provider will dispatch specialist(s) to aid in remediation efforts.

"Who is truly essential?"

A sick patient receives diagnosis and treatment from doctors and healthcare professionals. IT professionals and cybersecurity experts diagnose and treat an infected computer or network. Scientists continue to research COVID-19 in order to identify ways to treat, prevent, and minimize the effect(s) of the virus; while cybersecurity experts monitor the web for new and existing threats, using their detailed analysis to engineer solutions for risk prevention and threat mitigation.

WFH: The Future of Normal?

Forced quarantine and the closure of non-essential businesses have resulted in a “work from home” market surge; with companies scrambling to find “some way” to conduct everyday business despite not being able to travel to work. Schools are conducting online classes and even virtual graduations. Tech companies are now taking on the roles of architect and real estate developer, helping clients leverage the best tools and resources to create an effective home working environment. From Virtual private networks and desktop virtualization to audio/video conferencing and cloud optimization, simulated environments have replaced physical desktops and workspaces in the interim…perhaps even longer.

While remote working arrangements were at first considered “temporary” fixtures” for an uncontrollable situation, the view now looks quite different from the latter angle. If an environment is created with the goal of aligning priorities with existing societal circumstances – additional outlines can be implemented for future adaptation and change. Therefore, what was once a short-term engagement, may very well transition into an eventual normality.

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