Pandemic leads to surge in cyber crime

The massive increase in home working because of Covid-19 restrictions has made companies much more vulnerable to cyber crime, research by the Institute of Directors (IoD) has concluded.

Cyber attack
In a poll of almost 800 IoD members, almost one in three company directors (32%) indicated that they now regarded their organisations as more open to cyber attacks than before the pandemic struck a year ago.Joe Fitzsimons, senior policy adviser at the IoD said, “Many organisations have suffered cyber-attacks over the course of the pandemic, causing significant disruption, loss of revenue and in many cases data theft. The potential for reputational damage can result in long-lasting consequences.“Increased home working has made navigating cyber security all the more challenging. The rise of home working will last long beyond the pandemic, with its various benefits for both employers and employees. Minimising the risk of cyber crime will continue to be a front of mind priority for business leaders.  “Directors will continue to need support in developing a better understanding of cyber crime and the steps that can be taken to secure their digital operations. Further support in the form of access to training and tailored guidance will be key as organisations seek to minimise their risk of cyber threat.”The IoD found that those organisations that had experienced IT or cyber breaches during the pandemic, the most common examples included hacking, ransomware and phishing emails aimed at getting home workers to grant access to business systems.Previous research by the institute indicated that 74% of business leaders would be maintaining increased home-working arrangements once the pandemic is under control.Research published by the University of Strathclyde last week showed that incidents of cyber crime had "soared" during the pandemic, including attacks facilitated by the surge in home working.Dr Xavier Bellekens, from Strathclyde's Department Electronic and Electrical Engineering, who jointly wrote the paper with academics from the universities of Abertay, Kent, Oxford and Warwick, said, “The pandemic leaves many organisations exposed to cyber-attacks, with companies and governments rolling out new technologies to accommodate remote working and ensure business continuity.“When you're in your work environment you usually have protections like firewalls and intrusion detection systems to protect your computer. But working remotely means some will be using personal laptops that have not been vetted by their employers and might be working on sensitive and critical projects.“The increased anxiety generated by the pandemic has also heightened the likelihood of cyber attacks succeeding and governments and the media should be aware that announcements and the publication of stories could give rise to the associated cyber attack campaigns which leverage these events.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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