COVID-19 has upended life for people in many different ways. One effect of the pandemic that hasn’t been widely reported is an increase in cybercriminal activity. According to the FBI, cybercrime has increased by 400% since the start of the pandemic, and there were twice as many reports to the FTC of identity theft in 2020 than there were the year before.
This rise has been attributed in large part to the broad shift to remote work among executives and white-collar employees. Many of them are now working from home offices and using vulnerable networks and cloud-based apps that aren’t designed for the sensitive work they’re doing. This has given cybercriminals a unique window of opportunity to ply their craft.
COVID-Themed Cyber Scams
Verizon’s Chief Information Security Officer Nasrin Rezai explained the rising cybersecurity risks posed by the pandemic in an article published on CBSNews.com.
“For employees accustomed to working from the office, shifting to a work-from-home model as a result of COVID required them to integrate their personal lives,” Rezai said. “During the same period of transition and disruption, threat actors shifted their techniques to target employees through COVID-themed phishing and social engineering campaigns to capitalize on the stress and anxiety of the pandemic situation.”
The shift to remove work has also led many businesses to embrace cloud services, and cybercriminals have followed the trail. Cyberattacks targeting web applications now account for 39% of all data breaches, according to the CBSNews.com article.
“The challenge COVID presented was the speed at which companies had to enable their employees to work remotely,” said Rezai in the article. “It is possible that some security controls were bypassed, shortchanged or not anticipated as a result.”
The Affluent Are Especially Vulnerable
Affluent individuals and families may be especially vulnerable to cybercrime in the current environment given the fact that so many of them are now working remotely. According to the UBS Global Family Office Report, phishing schemes are the most common type of cyberattack against the affluent, followed by malware and social engineering.
Wire transfer fraud is another threat to the affluent. Cybercriminals use stolen personal information to try to trick individuals and/or their financial advisors into wiring funds to fake, untraceable accounts usually located abroad. For this reason, Frontier Wealth Management is taking extra precautions before sending wire transfers on behalf of our clients.
Identity theft remains a big threat for the affluent as well. Cybercriminals have updated this old trick with some new twists, such as using real estate websites like Zillow and Redfin to canvass upscale neighborhoods and steal mail that contains sensitive personal information. They then either sell the information to other thieves or hold onto it for a bigger payday later.
Cyberthieves also steal personal information by hacking into cell phones and computers, opening fake credit monitoring accounts and leveraging data from massive breaches like those that have occurred at major retailers and social media sites. These data breaches have exposed the Social Security numbers, passwords and account numbers of millions of Americans to cybercriminals.
How to Protect Yourself
So what can you do to protect yourself from cybercrime in the current environment? Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Segment your home wi-fi network. Create different segments in your network for guests and family members and for personal and business use to help protect your home network and various connected devices.
- Strengthen your wi-fi security. Leaving your internet router or modem unlocked is just like leaving your home’s doors unlocked at night. An open gateway gives hackers easy access to every connected device in your home.
- Avoid using public wi-fi. Sure, it’s convenient, but the public wi-fi offered in restaurants and retail stores tends to be unsecure. Hackers hang out in locations like these looking for unsuspecting cyber victims.
- Use two-factor authentication. This requires you to use a password and a separate passcode (usually sent via text) to authenticate your identity before logging in. Two-factor authentication can make it much harder for cyber thieves to steal your personal information.
- Look into purchasing cyber insurance. This type of policy can help you recoup some of the financial losses you might suffer from a cyberattack. Cyber insurance is usually offered as an add-on to a homeowner’s insurance policy so ask your insurance agent about it.
Take Proactive Steps
A single cyberattack could cost you and your family tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. So be proactive by taking steps like these now to keep your personal information and valuable assets safe.