Sep 14, 2020
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to impact businesses globally, cybercriminals are taking advantage of this crisis, through phishing tactics, for their financial gain. Phishing is the fraudulent attempt of a cybercriminal to act as a trusted source to gain sensitive information, typically resulting in financial gain for the criminal. Since January 1, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission has received more than 90,000 reports related to COVID-19 fraud with a total loss of $114 million since the beginning of the year.
Business owners already have the day-to-day operations of managing employment needs, fulfilling client orders, and running back-office tasks to manage; the list goes on and on. Having to worry about a phishing attack shouldn’t be one of those added tasks. However, a surge in COVID-related fake emails with dangerous attachments, links, and requests for personal information is our reality.
As teams work remotely, businesses have increased their use of web-based meetings. An example of a COVID-19 phishing scam involves the use of Zoom websites. Scammers are sending fictitious Zoom web address links, that when launched, download viruses that compromise the company’s data. These scams result in expensive fixes to restore company networks.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently issued an alert warning which urged individuals to be on the lookout for the following red flags:
- Unexplained urgency
- Last-minute changes in wire instructions or recipient account information
- Last-minute changes in established communication platforms or email account addresses
- Communications only in email and refusal to communicate via telephone or online voice or video platforms
- Requests for advanced payment of services when not previously required
- Requests from employees to change direct deposit information
Here are some basic rules and best practices to protect you and your employees from falling victim to these scams:
Exercise caution – Don’t open emails from unfamiliar email addresses or contacts. Or if you receive an email that appears to be from a trusted source, but appears ‘odd’ call and verify with the sender the authenticity of the email.
Avoid clicking on links and opening attachments – Verify a link by hovering your mouse button over the link to see where it leads. Sometimes, it’s obvious the web address is not legitimate. But keep in mind phishers can create links that closely resemble legitimate addresses. Delete the email and notify your IT department.
Get information about government actions regarding COVID-19 from reputable sources – For the most current information, visit the CDC and WHO websites.
Do not reveal personal or financial information – Emails seeking personal information like your Social Security number or login information is a phishing scam. Never respond to solicitations for this information. If you receive an email saying your shipment has been assigned a new ‘tracking id’ and you are asked to click the link to verify the update. Do not click the link. Instead, go to the website of the delivery service and enter the tracking id to verify if a change was made.
Do not use open or unsecure Wi-Fi for working remotely – Never use public wi-fi. When working remotely it is best practice to have a mobile wi-fi device that you can securely connect to.
Connect with your IT department – If you receive a suspicious email, forward the entire email as an attachment to your IT team. If you click on a link or open an attachment in a suspected phishing email, report any incident immediately.
If you are concerned about your company’s security controls or your phishing risk, connect with our team. We can assess your systems and provide value-added recommendations to protect your organization.
Tiffany Pollard, CISA
Risk Services Practice Leader, William Vaughan Company
Tiffany.firstname.lastname@example.org | 419.891.1040