Two thirds of businesses bracing for COVID-themed phishing surge in new year

More than half of firms are worried about cyberattacks – but most have no plans to train new employees on the risks

Posted 21 December 2020 by Christine Horton

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of business decision makers are anticipating COVID-themed phishing attacks targeting their company to increase in 2021, according to new research from Centrify.

The research also revealed that more than half (52 percent) have anticipated an increase in cyberattacks facing their organisations, as triggered by the most recent national lockdown in the UK.

Despite these concerns, 37 percent of respondents admitted that they currently have no plans to train new employees on data management policies and cyber security risks specific to COVID-related disruption.

 Furthermore, 37 percent also stated that they do not have sufficient systems in place to verify employee identities and credentials when accessing company data.

Centrify says that to protect their organisations, IT security pros should take proactive measures including security awareness training for employees, restricting VPN connections, increasing the use of multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever available, and applying least privilege access controls.  

Zero Trust

“COVID-themed email, SMS and web-based phishing attacks have not been uncommon over the last year, and so far we’ve seen cyberattack campaigns using the guise of charity, government financial aid initiatives, and business support schemes already lure thousands of victims into leaking sensitive information, such as log-in credentials and payment details,” said Howard Greenfield, chief revenue officer at Centrify.

 “In fact, these phishing campaigns have been so sophisticated and widespread in 2020 that business leaders can only reasonably assume that a colleague or employee has already fallen victim to one – especially if they have been working remotely this year for the first time in their career.

“Therefore, it is absolutely imperative for companies to adopt a zero trust approach enforced by least privilege access, which will only grant access to certain applications and data once a user’s identity has been verified. This will ensure that leaked log-in credentials do not necessarily translate to a breach of data.”