Secure Together: Britons scammed out of £3.5 million and essential services under attack

Two months into lockdown and the country is getting restless. There were protests in London last weekend, schools could be forced to reopen against the wishes of many teachers and councils, and those wanting to see the return of football in the UK have been frustrated as action resumed elsewhere in Europe.

But we must remember that life won’t be going back to normal any time soon. Most of us will be working from home for many more months, and the challenges that come with that will only become more pronounced over time.

We take a look at some of those challenges in this latest round-up, which discusses the cyber security risks associated with the pandemic and the ways lockdown threatens our ability to work productively and safely.

Cyber crime

It’s no surprise that phishing emails have been on the rise since the lockdown began, but a new report has found that the problem is just as bad – if not worse – for organisations directly involved in the coronavirus response.

Palo Alto Networks has discovered that healthcare agencies, governments, universities with medical centres, medical publishing firms and insurance companies across the UK, Australia, Canada, Italy and the US have been targeted by sophisticated scams.

Commenting on the report, Principal Researcher Peter Renals said: “As 2020 progresses, the most prominent threat facing customers is commodity malware deployed in support of sophisticated BEC schemes.

“Given the global impacts of COVID-19, [threat] actors have begun adapting their phishing campaigns and will likely continue to use COVID-19-themed emails to deliver commodity malware broadly in support of their objectives.

“In light of this trend, we encourage government agencies, healthcare and insurance organizations, public utilities, and universities with medical programs to apply extra scrutiny to COVID-19-related emails containing attachments.”

Phishing scams

Britons have been scammed out of £3.5 million as a result of coronavirus-related scams, according to Action Fraud.

The UK’s cyber crime agency said that, as of 15 May, 1,713 people have reported being defrauded. This indicates that victims lost on average £2,000 each.

Action Fraud added that it was aware of 7,796 phishing emails linked to COVID-19, and that in a two-day period, it received more than 640 reports of scams claiming that the victim was entitled to a reduction in their council tax.

Expert advice

Mental Health Awareness Week has fallen at a perfect time, given the increased stress that many of us are under as the lockdown continues.

In addition to our own guide on managing remote workers with a mind to mental health, you might also be interested in newly released Acas guidance on this topic.

The document was released alongside the results of an Acas-commissioned survey, which found that half of people working from home felt isolated and 70% were missing the social interactions that come with being in the office.

Acas Chief Executive Susan Clews said: “The coronavirus lockdown has created lots of extra challenges such as a lack of social contact with work colleagues, feeling alone, trapped or struggling with childcare responsibilities.

“There’s also a real anxiety around the impact of the virus itself, job security concerns whilst on furlough and genuine worries around whether it is safe to physically return back to their workplace.

“Our new coronavirus mental health advice covers all of these different workplace situations and offers practical advice on how workers, managers and bosses can support their colleagues during this difficult time.”

Tips for working from home

In one of our regular catch-ups with our team, we realised how frustrating work can be when you can’t simply go over to someone’s desk to ask a question.

Instead, every issue becomes a case of emailing, instant messaging or video calling – so when you do send an email, it’s all the more important that you remember to provide all the relevant information.

“It can be so annoying when you send a request and the person comes back to you and says you forgot to include a link or attachment,” one of our team said.

“We all get so many emails and messages at the moment. It’s important to be clear and concise in our requests, because otherwise it’s too easy to lose track of what work you have going on.”

Free resource

Are you looking for advice on what your organisation should do when employees are allowed back in the office?

This is something our experts discussed in a recent live panel debate. COVID 19 Risks and opportunities post-lockdown – available on YouTube – provides answers to issues such as:

  • The cyber and privacy risks organisations need to consider as they plan for the lockdown to ease;
  • The key information security, legal and privacy actions employers will need to take during the transition period;
  • The main privacy and cyber risks and opportunities employers must take into account as they return to business as usual; and
  • What we learned during this lockdown period and what organisations should do differently if there are further lockdowns.

Find out more

Coronavirus: your biggest challenge yet

The pandemic has presented a huge challenge for organisations, with cyber criminals pouncing on the panic and uncertainty it’s caused.

One virus is enough to contend with. Make sure you’re prepared to tackle whatever else comes your way with our packaged solutions, which include tools and services to help you address remote working best practices, network vulnerabilities and a host of other issues.

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