Today, cyber-crime is one of the biggest concerns for businesses, with cyber-attacks taking simple and more sophisticated forms, in criminals’ bids to access systems and data. Tradespeople and the self-employed, should be particularly vigilant. One wrong click of an email or allowing your financial data to fall into the wrong hands, can leave you vulnerable to cyber-crime.
What types of cyber-attacks are there?
This summer, a tradesman local to Northern Ireland fell victim to one of these cyber-attacks when his emails were infiltrated by hackers. His account was used to email one of his customers, posing as the tradesman. The hacker asked them to pay the remainder of the balance owed to him into a new bank account. Having no reason to suspect foul play, the customer paid the remainder into this new account, which actually belonged to the hacker. Luckily, the fraud was uncovered in time for the customer to cancel the transaction. But it’s not always the case. And banks aren’t obligated to reverse or reimburse payments made willingly by customers, despite any irregularities. People who’ve been duped in this way have lost as much as £25,000 in some instances.
So how can businesses prevent cyber-attacks?
They’re not easy to prevent but there are certain things you can do to protect against cyber-attacks. Awareness of the methods criminals use for instance, can help in your defence against cyber attacks.
For instance in only recent months, scammers have been phoning tradesmen, posing as HMRC and leaving messages demanding the victim make an immediate payment because they’re under investigation. HMRC reported 84,549 fraudulent tax refund messages in March 2018 alone. And by using the same methods as HMRC’s, the hackers add credibility to the scam.
The best defence against cyber-attacks really is to be aware of the scams and methods used, make your staff aware of them and be extremely vigilant.
- Example, if you receive a call from an official body, like the HMRC, you can simply end the call and call them back using the official telephone number from their website.
Spotting a fake HMRC email
Cyber hackers can make communications that appear genuine, so here are some things to be aware of in your defense against cyber-attacks:
- Watch out for common greetings such as ‘Dear Customer’ or Dear [email address] – if it’s genuine, they should know your name.
- Does it look like a genuine email address?
- Hover over links you’re asked to follow and check the link address in the bottom-left corner of your screen to see where it really leads.
- Genuine emails will never ask you for personal information or offer a tax refund.
- You should be wary of anything that states ‘Urgent Action Required’.
If you have any suspicions, delete the email and call the official HMRC number.
Passwords and two-step identification
You should always make sure you use strong passwords and avoid using obvious ones like family or pet names. It’s advisable to use different passwords for different accounts. To further protect against cyber-attacks, try using two-step identification where possible. Finally, it’s wise to agree payment terms with your customer in advance and advise them that any changes need to be agreed on in advance, ideally face to face.
Cyber Insurance For Peace Of Mind
Even with these measures in place, it’s extremely difficult to prevent cyber-attacks. One way to have peace of mind is by taking out a specialist cyber insurance policy which can cover you for business interruption, investigation costs, data recovery, theft, legal fees, compensation costs and more. And our scheme also comes with a 24 hour hotline, with experts on hand, day or night, to guide and advise you on what to do in the event of a cyber-attack.
If you’d like some specialist advice on cyber insurance, have a chat with our cyber expert Jeremy on 01444 810 442 or email him.