Have you given any thought to what the “new normal” might be after the pandemic has completed its course?
We’ve all heard predictions by experts who all seem to have different opinions about how things will play out in the coming months and years.
The bottom line is that nobody knows what will happen.
Will the gradual re-opening of society and business cause a new wave of infections with re-imposing restrictions for the economy?
Or have we lived through the worst, with the possibility of long-lasting changes to our business and personal lives that may never return to what they were before the coronavirus?
Has the Pandemic Created New Crime Trends?
Several organizations believe that the pandemic has increased opportunities for criminals:
Coronavirus Pandemic Is a Perfect Storm for Fraud
Mitigating Fraud and Corruption Risks During the COVID-19 Crisis
How cybercriminals are taking advantage of COVID-19: Scams, fraud, and misinformation
COVID-19 Operating in the ‘new normal’ – A backdoor to increased fraud risk?
Other side-effects that are being discussed include:
- Increased domestic & child abuse
- Higher use of alcohol & drugs
- A decrease in home burglaries, but increases in shuttered business break-ins
What Trends Might Survive the Pandemic?
I don’t claim to know the future, but let me suggest a couple of trends that may change your investigations in the foreseeable future.
Will Business Priorities Change?
Cutbacks to IT security, investigations, and auditing staff could mean fewer resources to prevent, detect, and investigate fraud and other matters.
I have read about companies who are temporarily transferring staff to other operational roles to fill in for employees who have been furloughed or laid off.
Security staff is feeling the pressure to support more remote employees while ensuring that their home offices provide adequate security. Due to these increased demands, they may not be able to keep up with software patches, upgrades, and reviews of digital logs that might indicate hacking or system abuse.
Investigators may find it challenging to identify, collect, preserve, and analyze the digital evidence in their investigations.
Audit staff may find it harder to ensure compliance and may need to pay more attention to technology use and activities related to cloud-based platforms.
When criminals can take advantage of making it more time-consuming or expensive to conduct investigations, they shift the odds in their favor that you may not catch them.
Virtual meetings vs. in-person
The number of virtual online meetings using services such as Zoom and Skype has soared in the past two months.
The trend of working from home has exploded, and many organizations, including their employees, may be reluctant to return to the office environments that currently exist.
As this situation develops, how could this impact your investigations?
Will you conduct virtual interviews in your investigations?
Will the quality of your interview suffer due to a lack of body language clues or a lowered ability to detect the mental or physical state of your subject?
In-person interviews can frequently provide micro-expression cues that experienced and intuitive investigators can sense. Could this be a disadvantage in a video or telephonic interview?
Does the interview environment make a difference? Would an interview subject feel and react differently in a location where they feel comfortable instead of in an office environment?
Bring Your Own Device & Cloud Computing
When working from home, the use of employee-owned devices is already complicating the responsibilities of IT teams in organizations of all sizes.
Employees not used to a higher level of security for their devices in a home environment may be increasing the chance for data breaches and theft of proprietary information.
At the same time, pandemic restrictions may not allow time to deploy new security guidelines and training to remote employees.
Things like the security of a home or small office routers, the proper selection and use of Virtual Private Networks, deploying consistent anti-malware solutions, and even the use of encryption can help minimize the risks for work-at-home employees.
How many organizations are deploying resources to address these issues?
From an investigative perspective, the subjects involved in your investigations may continue to be widely scattered geographically, making your efforts more time-consuming and costly.
If the employee needs access to their devices and home office networks to do their jobs, how will you be able to identify potential digital evidence, and then collect and preserve that data?
The use of cloud-based services has also exploded in the past two months. Even if you can arrange to collect data from employee-owned devices, how will you deal with applications and data stored in the cloud?
There have been lots of recent articles predicting how the pandemic will change how companies view their workforce.
Many people who have previously lived in densely-populated cities may be rethinking that lifestyle after living through the pandemic restrictions. Polls show that they are thinking about relocating to different countries, smaller towns, or rural areas that may be less risky.
This migration could contribute to a more fragmented and scattered workforce, which could change how you conduct investigations.
If organizations are now seeing the benefits of working remotely, they may also consider changes in how they recruit future employees.
Instead of hiring their talent and requiring new employees to move close to an office, organizations might think about recruiting the best talent, regardless of the location of the prospective employees.
With a workforce now scattered even more geographically, new policies and procedures may be necessary regarding investigative access to electronic data.
Investigators may also need to be more aware of the different privacy laws that could impact their ability to access and analyze data, depending on the jurisdiction where the data is stored.
Have You Given This Enough Thought?
Should you be planning for post-pandemic changes in how you conduct investigations?
Can the security, investigations, and auditing staff keep up with a more widely-dispersed workforce that may be using insecure devices and cloud-based services?
Are your employees being given the training and resources to improve their security? If not, could this increase the number of investigations required in the future?
We all hope for a complete return to our “normal” world, with all of the associated activities.
But we may need to think about a “new normal” and what that could mean to your investigations.
Are there any other trends that you think may continue after the pandemic?
Please let me know your thoughts so I can share them in future messages and blog posts.
The more we can educate people about these issues, the better we’ll be prepared for the post-pandemic world, if and when that day arrives.
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