Coronavirus: Cyber experts warn of risks of working from home amid COVID-19 outbreak

With more people moving to self-isolate or work from home amid the outbreak of coronavirus, cyber experts are warning of the dangers of conducting business on less-than-secure networks.

NZ Health IT chief executive Scott Arrol says cyber criminals are likely to attempt to take advantage of people using their personal computers for work, raising the risk of loss of data and breaches of privacy. 

"It is understandable people will want or have to work from home during the virus outbreak but there must also be a best practice approach to enabling and using technology, so it remains safe and secure to do so," Arrol said.

"While we have to look after ourselves and everyone else we've also got to be careful about how we are still going about our daily business even though our daily business has changed."

Cyber criminals may also use fearmongering coronavirus headlines to lure people in, in order to scam them, Arrol said.

"The COVID-19 outbreak has seen an increase of opportunistic cyber scam campaigns, such as emails being received purporting to have extremely important information to keep safe and include a link or attachment for more information to be accessed.

"Clicking on the link or attachment can be highly risky and people must only do so where the message has been received from a trusted source."

According to Ministry of Health guidelines, anyone who has been in or transited through mainland China, Iran, northern Italy or South Korea, or who has been in contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19, should go into self-isolation for 14 days.

Employees who are able to work from home, should be paid as usual, according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, while in cases where this is not possible, workers will most likely have to use their sick leave.

Having employees away from work is just one way in which businesses are struggling in the face of COVID-19.

Export industries, such as the forestry, dairy and meat sectors, have been hit particularly hard. The tourism and foreign education sectors have also seen a large drop in numbers due to the outbreak.

Businesses who are struggling to cope with the economic fallout from coronavirus are urged to speak up.

The Reserve Bank has met with banks and believes they are all prepared to respond to the outbreak.

Bankers' Association chief executive Roger Beaumont says the more banks know, the better equipped they will be to help.

"It's the businesses or the individual customers themselves who will start to see the early signs of a problem. And they will see that before the bank starts to notice that."

Beaumont says small to medium-sized businesses are the most vulnerable.

"No bank wants to see any customer or business fail, they are there to support their customers through challenging times," he said.

"The sooner they find out that there's a problem, the easier it is for them to support and intervene and help that customer."

On Monday, Cabinet approved a Business Continuity Package to help those businesses worst impacted by COVID-19.

The package includes a targeted wage subsidy scheme for workers, training and re-deployment options for affected employees and a plan to work with banks on the potential for future working capital support for companies that face temporary credit constraints.

BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope says he is looking forward to more details of the package being released soon.

"I think the key thing is to ensure that the package reflects the extent of the challenges that some of our businesses are facing in parts of regional and provincial New Zealand," he said. 

The Government is expected to release more details of the package next week.