Financial institutions see spike in threats linked to COVID-19

Cybercriminal with cash

Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of banks and insurers have experienced a rise in cybercrime since the pandemic began according to a new report.

The findings released today by by BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, the cyber and intelligence arm of BAE Systems, as part of The COVID Crime Index 2021 analyze the changing nature and impact of fraud, risk and cyber threats on UK and US financial institutions and consumers over the last 12 months

The research, based on a survey of over 900 organizations in the financial sector, also shows IT security, cybercrime, fraud or risk department budgets had been cut by almost a third (26 percent) in the past 12 months. In addition 42 percent say that the remote working model brought about as a response to COVID-19 makes them less secure. Just under half (44 percent) are also concerned that this has led to less visibility of potential holes in their network or infrastructure and a further 37 percent of financial institutions believe their customers are now at greater risk of cybercrime or fraud.

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Adrian Nish, head of cyber at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, says:

We're noticing a clear collaboration emerging between different groups of criminals across the wider landscape of serious and organized crime. Fraudsters and cyber criminals seek to exploit fear, uncertainty and change, and the pandemic has offered them new opportunities to probe for weaknesses they can monetize and new ways to disguise their activity.

Attackers are building increasingly advanced capabilities to target core banking systems and becoming more aggressive, harming victims' ability to respond to attacks. Online criminals have reacted fast, adapting their approach to hunt out remote working security gaps and prey on the vulnerable.

The monetary impact of online criminal activity since the start of the pandemic has also been significant. The index found that 56 percent of US and UK banks and insurers saw an upsurge in financial losses over the last 12 months -- the average cost reaching $720,000 and rising.

A secondary study as part of the index surveyed consumers to explore the personal impact of these increased attacks. It finds that 38 percent of consumers have been targeted at least once in the past year. More than a quarter (28 percent) say they have been sent an email hoax relating to COVID-19, with 22 percent also being targeted by text or SMS. Even when refunded, the average amount of money stolen by cybercriminals in these attacks was $1,174. For those who didn't see their money again, the average money lost was a significant $743.

The full report is available from the BAE Systems site.

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