While businesses are working hard to transform office-bound ICT systems into a flexible, portable resource, they are facing the additional threat of cyber-crime. A huge increase in online fraud and cyber-crime related to the Covid-19 pandemic is worrying government, police and business organisations. Criminals are taking advantage of the current Covid-19 pandemic to scam individuals and businesses into parting with their money and personal information.
Online use spikes up
During the coronavirus crisis people are relying more than ever on computer systems and digital communications. Global internet traffic is said to have has increased by 30%.
There has been a massive shift in our lifestyle and behaviours. Enforced social distancing under lockdowns means online opportunities are the next natural choice for shopping, communicating and socialising.
Whether you’re struggling in to work, working at home, furloughed from work or just trying to keep occupied at home with your household, the use of smartphones, laptops, tablets are other devices has grown hugely. We are all taking to Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp and Facebook like never before.
Cybercrime threats increase too
Coronavirus has brought high levels of confusion and distress to society. At a time when people are particularly anxious or vulnerable, many cases are being highlighted of loathsome online crimes taking advantage the current situation. For example:
1. Furlough scams – HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has asked 292 websites to be removed since the UK lockdown began on 23 March. Most of these coronavirus-related scam or phishing web addresses were identified by HMRC while others were reported by the public. Some small business owners were targeted by scam emails claiming to be from the HMRC and advising them on funding related to the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
2. Corona website scams – In March the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) took down 2,000 online coronavirus-related scams including:
- 555 malware distribution sites set up to cause significant damage to any visitors
- 471 fake online shops selling fraudulent coronavirus related items
- 200 phishing sites seeking personal information such as passwords or credit card details.
3. Bank business loan fears – There are also fears that firms applying to banks for coronavirus business loans may be exposed to the risk of Covid-19 email fraud. The alert comes as it is thought that only one in five banks accredited to hand out coronavirus business loans have implemented the strictest protocols preventing cyber criminals from spoofing an organisation’s identity – leaving customers at greater risk of email fraud.
In fact, such are the fears about cyber criminals leaping on the coronavirus pandemic as a novel means to extort people online that the National Cyber Security Centre launched a new reporting service in April for scam emails as part of a campaign to help people protect themselves from cyber criminals exploiting the pandemic. The ‘Cyber Aware’ campaign promotes behaviours to mitigate threats and announced a scam reporting service for people to flag suspicious emails for the NCSC to assess and take down malicious content.
Covid challenges for small businesses
In the current pandemic the UK’s small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face a triple whammy. Scattered staff, fewer customers and disrupted supplies mean these firms need to be able to count on their computerised systems to keep going.
Many ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses have pivoted to ‘brick to click’, turning to e-commerce exclusively, from micropubs delivering your beer to restaurants boxing up their gourmet meals. It’s all part of the ‘new normal’ as a time when there are real fears about the latest slump in the UK economy.
Some of the key ways that small businesses have looked at ways to increase income include shifting more business online (17%) and investing in new technology to operate remotely (15%), according to post-Covid research by one bank.
Working from home seems set to stay for some time, perhaps even after the pandemic has subsided and lockdowns are eased. Yet it can be frustrating and time-consuming getting to grips with new tech set-ups such as:
- Organising up video calls and conferencing
- Setting up VPNs for work-from-home
- Organising cloud-based systems
- Deciding on password managers
- Increasing your online presence
- Maintaining data confidentiality
Not only are business-owners and managers dealing with the technical issues but they must consider digital security too. Businesses need to be extra vigilant online and keep employees informed about heightened risk.
With the easing of lockdown, businesses opening up workplaces will also need to ensure that they are ‘Covid-secure’ – that includes PCs, printers and other devices being virus-free and hygienic. It’s important to sanitise ICT equipment in the right way and with the recommended cleaning agents to avoid damage to screens and surfaces.
Coronavirus UK: Criminal gangs ‘actively targeting organisations responding to Covid-19 pandemic’
Small businesses advised to seek IT support
Small firms busy with keeping their business afloat and lacking sufficient in-house ICT expertise are advised to seek IT support. Saving time and money in the long run, it makes sense to use turn to an IT support service which can free up your staff to get on with their work rather than troubleshooting IT problems and falling victim to cybercrime.
360ict Ltd is a professional IT support service which has been helping small businesses survive the current crisis. It provides 24/7 desktop support via live chat and telephone and can give full infrastructure cover to the whole of your organisation at a very competitive price.