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Cyber criminals and high-net-worth targets

At a glance

  • Cyber crime can be challenging to protect against and continues to rise in scale and complexity, affecting essential services, commercial business and individuals alike
  • The National Crime Agency (NCA) reports that the cost of cyber crime to the UK is billions of pounds a year and that it has seen a significant growth
  • Historically high-net-worth individuals tend to be older and less tech-savvy than younger generations, meaning that their potential risk is greater.

This article counts towards accumulating your annual CII CPD structured learning hours for Cyber and Data Security.

By reading this article, and correctly answering the three questions underneath, you will have achieved the following learning outcome: Identify strategies for categorising and safeguarding personal or sensitive data.

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Cyber crime can be challenging to protect against and continues to rise in scale and complexity, affecting essential services, commercial business and individuals alike.

Cyber crime

The National Crime Agency (NCA) reports that the cost of cyber crime to the UK is billions of pounds a year and that it has seen a significant growth – plus untold damage and threats to national security. Criminals are increasingly targeting high-net-worth individuals, as they are seemingly easier to attack than businesses and essential services. With cyber-crime now posing a significant and very real threat to high-net-worth individuals, there is an increased need to shift focus to protecting their assets in the virtual sphere.

The growing sophistication of cyber crime threatens everyone, from large global companies through to individuals. However, high-net-worth individuals are a particularly attractive target for cyber criminals. With the relatively lower risk chance of being caught and more lenient prosecutions, cyber-crime is a far more attractive avenue for criminals.

High-net-worth individuals lack the cyber security and sophistication of corporate businesses. With corporate companies improving their cyber protections, cyber criminals have been looking for easier and more visible targets.

A factor that makes high-net-worth individuals unique is that many high-profile individuals have details of their personal lives published online, for everyone to see. Cyber criminals use this information to guess passwords and to hack into their accounts and systems.

Historically high-net-worth individuals tend to be older and less tech-savvy than younger generations, meaning that their potential risk is greater, and they are more susceptible to social engineering and phishing emails.

Whilst ransom and extortion has always been of concern for high-net-worth individuals, digital ransomware and extortion is something that hasn’t always been treated with the same severity. The repercussions of data breaches and leak of personal information could prove ruinous.

Cyber criminals use a wide array of different methods to attack their victims. Some of the most common include; hacking, fraud, identity theft, ransomware, extortion, data breaches and even physical theft of IT systems.

Tips for improving cyber security

Considering the increasing risk exposure of high-net-worth individuals to cyber crime, below are some tips for improving cyber security.

  1. Anti-virus protection. It’s essential that applications are protected with a reputable and advanced level of anti-virus protection. There are many free versions in the market, but they are somewhat limited to what they offer/protect. A good anti-virus software will help protect your assets and online profile and is essential as a first line of defence against cyber-criminals.
  2. Don’t go phishing. The growing use of technology makes individuals increasingly vulnerable to being hacked. Cyber crimes against high-net-worth people include social engineering attempts by email – a term known as ‘phishing’. You should always think before opening emails and go through a simple checklist: Was I expecting this? Are there links and attachments in the email? Do I recognise the sender? Don’t click or open an email until you’re sure it’s legitimate. Recognise the sender but still have doubts? Pick up the phone to check authenticity.
  3. Be careful what is posted on social media. When individuals overshare personal information on social media, it can be assembled and analysed to allow behaviour profiles to be built. Based on this intelligence and the gathering of information about movements, locations, hobbies and relationships – a ‘threat actor’ can begin to piece together a story to use against a potential victim and then send links from a seemingly genuine friend or acquaintance. They may also ascertain credit card details and banking information too. Remember it’s not just your online details which can be compromised. Oversharing of holiday vacations and experiences can lead to crimes such as burglaries. Think first before publicly sharing that your home is unoccupied or that you have made an expensive purchase.
  4. Keep up to date. It’s important to keep software up to date. Make sure you regularly update devices, browsers, extensions, operating systems and mobile apps. These software updates will include security patches and updates and fix bugs or security flaws that have been identified. By keeping on top of these updates, you are reducing your risk and exposure to cyber criminals and ensuring you keep safe.
  5. Cache in on cookies. Everyone accumulates masses of cookies and other tracking in our browsers. Routinely clear your browser – software is available to block adverts and stop people from tracking your movements online. They can also protect you against viruses and fake websites and block attempts to steal your personal information.
  6. External checks. Having external checks and tests on internal systems can identify weak spots and potential areas of vulnerability. It’s worth performing background checks on any employees. Additionally, you should consider the security of your vendors and suppliers, if they store your personal information, have they got the right processes, controls and security in place, to minimise the chance of your personal data being stolen.
  7. Hire an expert. High-net-worth individuals should consider hiring external, third-party security experts. Well known celebrities such as David Beckham have hired cyber security firms to bolster their cyber defences and help reduce their potential risk to being targeted by cyber criminals.

If you want any support on this please do speak to your usual Zurich contact.

Image © Getty

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