"Fraudsters will take advantage of any opportunity to steal your money, personal information, or both. Right now, they are using the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic to further their efforts," said the FBI in a press release. (Photo: Shutterstock) “Fraudsters will take advantage of any opportunity to steal your money, personal information, or both. Right now, they are using the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic to further their efforts,” said the FBI in a press release. (Photo: Shutterstock)

COVID-19 has resulted in one of the largest work-from-home situations in U.S. history. As hackers discover new ways to exploit the security vulnerabilities created by the pandemic, cybersecurity is under new levels of stress, resulting in a substantial increase in cybersecurity risks for businesses.

In fact, as of the end of March, more than 1,200 complaints of COVID-19-related cybercrimes have been investigated by the FBI. Before the pandemic runs its course, the agency predicts that the number of cybercrimes, primarily email compromise schemes, are expected to double, along with damage costs due to phishing scams, ransomware attacks and insecure remote access to networks, according to an FBI Press Release.

The uptick in cybercrime during the pandemic is due largely to the growing number of businesses with employees working from home and the increased demand and reliance on online communication tools. This has created opportunities for hackers to take advantage of the remote workforce to deploy ransomware attacks to exploit vulnerabilities in a company’s security, along with the use of social engineering tactics to gain access to company data.

Cybercriminals are using the unfamiliarity of remote work to prey on businesses that may not have work-from-home protocols in place. These home office/remote exposures can be attributed to:

  • Insufficient security regarding home WiFi and shared devices when connecting to office systems, including anti-virus protection.
  • Increased risk from theft or loss of equipment.
  • Insufficient or stretched IT support services and detection systems.
  • No established safeguards, such as a multifactor authentication method.
  • Failure to isolate the business’s network assets from the employee’s personal device(s).

As the pandemic runs its course, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has advised businesses to be prepared for a new wave of cybersecurity threats — a trend that is already increasing the number of claims under cyber policies. In fact, brokers and insurance-industry attorneys are already seeing a spike in both cyber insurance claims and inquiries about how cyber insurance can help mitigate some of the liabilities the mass shift of working from home has necessitated.

As your policyholders navigate and recover from this new reality, they will be looking to you to help them identify cyber risks and potential gaps in coverage exposed by COVID-19 and other cyber-related issues.

Michele Epstein ([email protected] or 818-578-4042) is vice president, professional & management liability at RIC, a division of Worldwide Facilities, LLC. This article was first published by RIC and is republished here with consent. 

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