The Covid-19 crisis is resulting in a growing wave of small business cybercrime

Cybersecurity experts are warning that attacks on small and medium-sized businesses are on the increase as CARES Act relief funds are distributed in the US.

With federal and state agencies distributing financial aid, experts at Keeper Security are advising small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to adopt a heightened cybersecurity stance over the coming weeks.

The warning comes amid the rollout of the $2 trillion Covid-19 stimulus bill, intended to aid businesses suffering due to the outbreak of Covid-19. Research carried out in 2019 by Keeper and the Ponemon Institute has previously revealed that 80 percent of US-based SMBs have already experienced a cyberattack. 

“Coronavirus has rapidly brought on unprecedented levels of chaos, confusion and emotional distress within our nation, which creates prime conditions for cybercriminals to exploit,” said Darren Guccione, CEO and Co-founder of Keeper Security. “Add in the fact that millions of Americans are working from home, using personal devices, home networks and you have a recipe for disaster.”

The early stages of the pandemic revealed a number of attacks targeting the frontlines, with attacks reported against the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as growing concern of ransomware attacks that could cripple hospitals.

But experts say the next wave of attacks may be inspired by financial opportunity associated with the stimulus measure. Guccione believes that federal aid, grants and small business loans could be a near-perfect catalyst to incentivize online scammers to strike. Attacks of this nature will not require sophisticated tactics to be effective and may largely rely on user error or deception, such as email phishing campaigns.

Cybercrime attacks

Guccione also predicts that stolen credentials on the dark web will be more frequently utilized by cybercriminals to execute credential stuffing and account takeover attacks.

Keeper’s 2019 Global State of Cybersecurity in Small and Medium-Sized Businesses found that two of the most common attacks used against SMBs were phishing (57%) and credential theft (30%). Cybercriminals can easily mask an email to appear as if it’s coming from a friend, colleague or government agency, offering a compelling reason for a user to click on a link. Once a link is engaged, there is little to no recourse a user can take to avert the hack.

Beyond financial consequences, the study also found that 69 percent of global respondents lost sensitive information due to an attack, which can cause irreparable harm to an organization’s reputation.

The virus outbreak is also stretching the utilization of government-backed resources, offering fewer government safety nets to fall back on in the face of online fraud or cyberattack. Many SMBs struggle to rebound from cyberattacks under normal economic circumstances, making the coming months extra perilous for this segment of the business.

Keeper advises businesses to be extra vigilant when handling online communications and inform employees of the heightened risk, noting that the best defense is a proactive approach to security. 

The pain felt from economic turmoil isn’t limited to American SMBs and neither is the elevated cybersecurity threat. Similar to the US, the UK and countries in Europe have also rolled out coronavirus financial aid packages for businesses. Globally, two-thirds of SMBs experienced an attack within the 12 months prior to responding to Keeper’s survey. Further, respondents said those attacks are becoming more frequent, targeted and sophisticated.

“Tools like password managers and VPNs provide businesses with an extra layer of protection against user error but there’s no better solution than a proactive approach to digital security,” said Guccione.

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