The growing reliance on remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a rise in phishing and social engineering scams over Q2, according to specialist re/insurer Beazley.
These kinds of email attacks had been on the decline from Q4 2019 to Q1 2020, but the arrival of the global pandemic has provided cybercriminals with the perfect cover to step up their efforts, Beazley said in its latest Breach Insights report.
The majority of social engineering attacks result in a business email compromise (BEC), where the cybercriminal gains access to an email account.
However, in Q2 cybercriminals were most successful in stealing funds using social engineering techniques to provide fraudulent payment instructions without a system compromise.
In a social engineering scam, techniques such as email phishing are used to manipulate someone into providing confidential information, or taking other actions that bypass normal security to help the attacker commit theft or fraud.
With the expansion of the remote workforce, Beazley feels that detecting and preventing social engineering scams has become more difficult.
At home employees are more likely to be distracted, and do not have co-workers on hand to advise about the trustworthiness of suspicious emails.
In another development, Beazley Breach Response (BBR) Services has noted a slow-down in the speed at which companies detected that payments were being redirected, particularly if the change to payments had occurred near the beginning of the pandemic response.
Organizations in the middle market were increasingly likely to be targeted in Q2 compared to smaller organizations, and reported 60% of these incidents, up from 46% in Q1.
To the extent middle market organizations have been more resilient in carrying on day-to-day operations during the pandemic, their employees are more available to be targeted, Beazley notes.
Healthcare, financial institutions, manufacturing, real estate, and education were the most targeted industries in Q2 2020, with middle market organizations being the primary target of all fraudulent instruction attacks, reporting 55% of incidents in Q2, compared to 24% in Q1 2020.