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Be vigilant – cyber criminals are ready to take advantage | #cyberfraud | #criminal | #cybersecurity | #informationsecurity


I’d never seen anything like it. As soon as the schools closed, WhatsApp groups everywhere were flooded with people sharing homes chooling apps and websites, parents daunted but preparing to take on their new roles. But it isn’t just our kids we need to educate at the minute.

Because we’re now spending far more time online than before, we have to become much more vigilant. Our hunger to get information coupled with increasing pressures faced at work and home can impact on the precautions we might have previously taken; and cyber criminals are ready to take advantage.

A dual challenge has occurred literally overnight. Companies took immediate action to keep afloat – but they’re also facing the critical issue of doing so securely. Take for instance businesses that haven’t enough laptops for their people to work from home and bought extra from a high street store.

These are unlikely to have the same level of security provisions such as full disc encryption as the ones the organisation would issue under normal circumstances which pose significant risks. In some cases multiple generic usernames and passwords are being issued to allow people onto networks. These are things that hackers love.

It’s inevitable that organisations’ priorities will shift which may lead to IT and cyber security being deprioritised, possibly delaying important activities, including those that make organisations more resilient to cyber threats. That puts a lot of responsibility on the end user to become much more aware of the risks.

Now that I work from home, I spend much of my time on video conferences. This brings the risk of phishing attacks such as a prospective client asking you to click the link to take part in a video call. You might not have heard of this platform before but if they’re based in another country – will you take the chance? Ordinarily our spidey senses would tingle but in a crisis, that can be dampened.

It’s always uplifting to hear how so many people want to support others at this time but again be careful to find out where the request to help is coming from.

One example of a very well put-together scam targets organisations asking them to donate to support the global Covid-19 response, suggesting donations are made using bitcoin, and in a tax-deductible way. It’s attractiveness is in its simplicity.

Making fake websites that resemble legitimate ones is a favourite approach, done by hyphenating the name or misspelling a word that’s hard to notice. Or, in a new WhatsApp group, you might be asked to donate to local key workers. With time being so precious, there’s a risk of rushing into doing something without fully checking that it’s from an official source.

The UK National Fraud & Cyber Security Centre has reported that coronavirus-related fraud reports increased by 400 per cent in March. So, just as we are trying to teach the kids how to read, do fractions or speak French, we need to educate ourselves about how to protect ourselves and our businesses from viruses preying on the virus.

My top tips:

1 Remain skeptical if you’re contacted out of the blue to instal a new application or donate money.

2 Don’t do anything online in your home that you wouldn’t do in your office. It can be tempting to click on the funny video link you’ve received from someone you’ve not had contact with in a long time. Ask yourself, why are they suddenly contacting me now?

3 If you need IT assistance, never accept remote access support from a source you don’t trust. And never give access to any online banking information or banking platforms.

:: Ronan Magee is director of forensic services at PwC in Belfast

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