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Will Coronavirus Lead To More Security Fraud? You Bet

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Matt Wujciak


While the business world is focused on the economic threat and digital transformation operations behooved by the novel coronavirus, cybercriminals around the world have been capitalizing on the crisis, spreading a new kind of “virus” that employees and customers fear. 

As seen in a recent CNBC article: “Year over year, attempted online payment fraud increased 73% in 2019,” Kevin Lee, digital trust and safety architect at Sift, a San Francisco-based software security company said. And he expects to see that grow substantially during the coronavirus epidemic. 

And it already has.

A surge in cyber attacks

As seen in TechRepublic:

There has been a steady increase in the number of coronavirus COVID-19-related email attacks since January, according to security firm Barracuda Networks, but researchers have observed a recent spike in this type of attack, up a whopping 667% since the end of February.

Between March 1 and March 23, researchers detected 467,825 spear phishing email attacks, and 9,116 of those detections were related to COVID-19, representing about 2% of attacks, the company said. In comparison, a total of 1,188 coronavirus-related email attacks were detected in February, while just 137 were detected in January.

“The good news for online businesses,” Lee says, “is that by paying attention to trends, understanding what signals to look out for and using the right technologies, they can mitigate fraud risk and continue to enable legitimate purchases.” 

As the coronavirus continues to play a role in our daily lives, we have to make sure that our security and fraud prevention is keeping up with the digital operations that we’re implementing. 

More and more employees are working remotely by the day, and companies may eventually face the prospect of functioning with little to no personnel on-site or skeleton crews in IT, and other important support functions. The idea is not to compromise the advancement of innovative, digital transformation, but to bring security and data protection along as part of digital transformation.

Against this backdrop, both employers and employees need to take the utmost care to protect themselves (confidential company information), as well as their customers.

How to protect your employees

According to the Harvard Business Review

“The past few weeks have brought a sizable uptick in business email interruption scams (where Office 365 or Gmail accounts are hacked through a phishing email, and the hacker then sends fraudulent invoices purporting to be from legitimate vendors, with changed wiring instructions with the money going to the hacker’s account).”

HBR recommends being extra vigilant about phishing emails. Enable multi-factor authentication on whatever accounts you control, and certainly be sure it is in use for Office 365.

Practice good “cyber hygiene.” Make sure your devices — including your internet router — are up to date on their anti-virus protection and that you’re using secure and known connections. Avoid the temptation of using Bluetooth in a public place, since it is an easy way for hackers to connect to your device.

Only work on secure, password-protected internet connections. If you have to use public Wi-Fi, be sure to verify with the owner that the network to which you’re connecting is their legitimate network and is secured through a password. Avoid accessing any confidential or sensitive information from a public Wi-Fi network. If possible, use an encrypted VPN when connecting to these public networks.

Lastly, update your emergency contacts. Be sure your company has an “out of band” way to contact all employees — whether a cell phone number or other way to contact the employee outside of company systems. That way, should your company fall victim to an attack (malware, ransom, DDoS or other type), you’ll be able to communicate with your employees.

Remote access tools have advanced in ways that were inconceivable even as little as 2 years ago. Fraud prevention, data security and remote access is only as strong as its weakest link.

How to protect your customers

Protecting employees and internal security is the easy part. You have more control over internal data security and fraud prevention then you do with the external customers you’re serving. 

However, this reality doesn’t have to be the case. And it shouldn’t. In fact, protecting your customers should be an even greater priority. Failure to do so can result in lost customers, dismantled brand image and marketability, costly legal liabilities, and risk of permanent termination. 

Read More: How To Improve Self Service

The overwhelming majority of consumers fear fraud increasing in their daily lives. As seen in a recent CCW Digital report, NICE Enterprise research confirms that 1 in 4 Americans fell victim to fraud in 2019. With a general increase in digital transformation and engagement (remote work, cloud data storage, omnichannel capabilities), more opportunities for fraudsters are becoming prevalent, contributing to the estimated increase in 2020-2021 fraud. 

As if that statistic was not alarming enough, 92% of consumers in the U.S. are concerned about the increased risk of fraud in their daily activities – as they should be.

Last night at 10:23 P.M., my phone number was obtained by a fraudster who informed me that my “PhoneNumber won 3,000,000.00 USD in the Commonwealth Donation.For claim,Reply” typos and all. Unlucky for this fraudster, she forgot to change her college email that was attached in the SMS message. 

In an omnichannel world, where customers use several channels in their journey, it is important to protect each channel. Why? Because fraudsters use several channels in their fraud scheme. In fact, although 60% of all fraud involves the contact center, fraudsters usually execute their end game and takeover a customer’s account using multiple digital channels on the web. Therefore, it is important to take an omnichannel approach when preventing fraud (since fraudsters take an omnichannel approach when they’re conducting it).

For this reason, the CCW Digital analyst teams has recently produced a comprehensive report on everything you need to know regarding fraud in the contact center, featuring insights and analysis from our in-house analysts, NICE Enterprise, and CX expert, CCW Digital advisory board member, and NYT/WSJ bestselling author, Shep Hyken. 

This report is your guide to a more qualified, more empowering customer-centric environment during vulnerable times and pandemonium. After revealing why standard security measures are so problematic, this report offers a clear and concise blueprint for rethinking your strategy to the biggest problem in today’s contact center: fraud.

Read More: Contact Center Security and Fraud Prevention

“No one’s safe from the behavioral economic consequences brought upon by the coronavirus. But adapting to digital trends will give you the best chance at being on the favorable side of financial Darwinism.” – CCW Digital