Remote work and Covid-19 anxiety can expose you to phishing and fraud
Covid-19 is the perfect environment for new types of fraud. With so much confusion around pandemic information, we’re all at risk of cyber crime, including:
Hyper-focused phishing attacks
Fraudulent Covid-19 testing
Offers for fake or untested vaccines
The good news is that there are easy-access innovations to help protect us, as long as we also develop good cyber practices.
How is Covid-19 making it worse?
Covid-19 triggered massive changes in1 the way we live and work, and these will continue for months or even years to come.
Remote work, rapid technological change and security gaps
Working from home can be isolating personally, but it also has technology challenges. Before the pandemic, many of us were all more likely to work in-person with colleagues in a office business building. In that environment, our employers and staff typically took care of cybersecurity, including:
• IT support
• Virus and malware checkers
• Virtual private networks (VPNs)
Now that a large number of us are working remotely, IT departments have less control over the security of devices and software and are under pressure to improve the way they support us. As well, the businesses and service providers that support them are experiencing the same challenges. They too are being forced to evolve rapidly to accommodate remote work, as are their own suppliers. So whether your company is huge, or a one-person operation, all of the technical services you rely on are being forced to change more quickly than normal.
And that forced rapid pace of change means greater potential for gaps and errors.
Our personal cybersecurity may be similar to our workplace tools, but we’re less cautious at home. And cyber criminals know this.
Increased anxiety means more snap decisions
Even as you continue to stay home, remain socially distanced, and wear masks, the pandemic has put most people’s “fight or flight” instincts in higher gear. For example, you might find yourself reacting to small things more sharply than normal.
Cyber criminals take advantage of this anxiety to play on your fears, and Canada’s Anti-Fraud Centre2 is reporting an uptick in pandemic-related cybercrime such as:
Private companies selling fake or unapproved vaccines
Fraudulent charities playing on your compassion
Spoofed Covid-19 information sites that can install malware on your device
Personal practices, including online purchasing can leave you open to theft
To reduce physical contact, you are probably doing more online shopping for food, clothing, and other day-to-day needs. As well, you might be buying from sources you wouldn’t normally consider, for example, buying items that pop up randomly in your social-media feed. Unfortunately, both of these situations can put your credit card and other personal data at risk.
Even in the case of a known, legitimate shopping site, you are vulnerable to the site’s own underlying systems and suppliers. And an unknown site is, well—unknown.
Also, many of us don’t have high levels of cybersecurity in our own homes. How often do you change your Wi-Fi network password? Do you use a VPN to shield your location and activities? When you share documents with your accountant or lawyer, do they have adequate cybersecurity in place to protect your data? If they’re part of a big organization, they’re likely to, but if they’re independent, they may not.
Who is a cyber-crime target?
Everyone: Sophisticated cyberscammers target all of us with “bot” software that uses stolen passwords to cycle through millions of email and password combinations in minutes.
You, personally: You may become a specific target of cyber crime if scammers know something about you. For example, if you live in a high-net-worth postal code, or your social media (including LinkedIn) suggests you are high net worth or connected to people who are. One piece of basic information can lead to another as a scammer builds a cache of personal data to help them get to you. Some of these tools include:
Social engineering: A broad term covering several ways of manipulating you into giving up private data
Phishing: A link to a “spoofed” site that looks like a real site, for example, an email about pandemic compensation information3 that appears to be from the Canadian government
Spear phishing: Phishing targeted at a specific high-net-worth individual
Whaling: Phishing that impersonates a specific executive at an institution, for example, an email that appears to be from the CEO demanding a money transfer or passwords to internal systems
Any of these scams can end up with someone gaining access to your personal, business, or employer’s accounts.
By clicking on these links, you may install malware or be tricked into revealing your passwords. That can lead to financial loss, identity theft or ransomware, which encrypts one or more of your devices until you pay the scammer’s ransom demand.
Protect yourself, and learn what to do if you’re data is compromised
To protect yourself, be conscientious about your cybersecurity tools and personal habits, including your personal state of mind, and be prepared, just in case.
Read more in about this in Part 2 of our Cybersecurity Series – How can I protect myself from Covid-19 cyber crime
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