Cyberattacks on the rise amid COVID-19 – report

Attacks have increased in number and severity since the onset of the pandemic

Cyberattacks on the rise amid COVID-19 – report


By Ryan Smith

Cyberattacks have increased in number and severity since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by cyber insurance and security firm Coalition.

Coalition’s H1 2020 Cyber Insurance Claims Report collected insights from incidents reported across the 25,000 small and mid-sized organizations the company serves across the US and Canada.

“The changes organizations have implemented to facilitate remote work have given cybercriminals new opportunities to launch unprecedented campaigns, exploiting mass uncertainty and fear,” Coalition said. “In fact, since the beginning of COVID-19, Coalition has observed a 47% increase in the severity of ransomware attacks, on top of a 100% increase from 2019 to Q1 2020.”

The report also found that since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a 35% increase in funds-transfer fraud and social engineering claims filed by Coalition policyholders. Reported losses from these attacks have ranged from the low thousands to more than $1 million per event, the company said. COVID-19 has also resulted in a surge in business email compromise, with Coalition observing a 67% spike in the number of email attacks.

Ransomware (41%), funds-transfer loss (27%) and business email compromise incidents (19%) were the most frequent types of loss, accounting for 87% of reported incidents and 84% of claims payouts during the first half of the year.

Other key findings included:

  • Due to the transition to remote work, exploitation of remote access was the root cause of reported ransomware attacks.
  • Email intrusion, invoice manipulation and domain spoofing were the most common attack techniques in funds-transfer fraud incidents.
  • Organizations that used Microsoft Outlook for email were three times as likely to experience a business email compromise as organizations that used Google Gmail.

“When it comes to cyber loss, the conventional wisdom is that it’s not ‘if’ it will happen, but when,” said Joshua Motta, co-founder and CEO of Coalition. “We’re in a heightened state of cyber vulnerability; human errors are more likely to be made remotely, new technology is being deployed on a daily basis to support remote work setups, and cyber criminals are taking advantage. Our report showcases where organizations are most at risk, and the fact that we at Coalition are in a unique position to proactively help organizations prevent incidents, provide emergency response when they occur, and, most importantly, help organizations recover operationally and financially in the aftermath.”

The report also found that cyber criminals targeted organizations of all sizes. While larger organizations in the company’s sample (those with revenues of $100 million to $250 million) were five times as likely to experience claims as small organizations (with revenues under $10 million), the severity of losses was often well into six figures regardless of company size.

“This highlights the disproportionate impact of cyber incidents on small businesses,” Coalition said.

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