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Police warn businesses of cyber crime ‘surge’ during lockdown

Scammers are trying to take advantage of staff confusion over multiple official grants available to help struggling firms, a police officer warned.

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Businesses face a surge in cyber crime from fraudsters trying to exploit coronavirus, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd warned (David Young/PA)

Businesses face a surge in cyber crime from fraudsters trying to exploit coronavirus, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd warned (David Young/PA)

Businesses face a surge in cyber crime from fraudsters trying to exploit coronavirus, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd warned (David Young/PA)

Businesses face a “surge” in cyber crime from fraudsters trying to exploit coronavirus, a senior police officer has warned.

Scammers are trying to take advantage of staff confusion over multiple official grants available to help struggling firms, PSNI assistant chief constable Alan Todd said.

He urged managers to update IT security systems and double-check unusual requests when they return to work following the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Mr Todd said: “It is very clear that from a strategic level through the National Crime Agency, through the global level, there is a real surge in attempts, at all levels, from individual members of the public right through to business ransomware.

“All of the usual methods of attack have been ramped up at this time and therefore the risk arising out of this for businesses and indeed householders is higher than it was.

“It was predicted before the start of this and we are certainly seeing evidence of that.”

He addressed an online seminar of Northern Irish business leaders organised by the Institute of Directors.

The officer in charge of the force’s coronavirus response said a lot of cyber crime was low-level but could target high volumes.

Given that businesses are furloughed or closed and will at one stage go back into operation he said it was essential computer systems were updated.

He added: “Your staff may be involved in transactions and conversations around schemes that they have no familiarity with.

“Of course, when you put staff into that position the potential for that to be exploited by fraudsters and others in the cyber crime world is even higher.”

He warned business owners to refresh staff guidance around cyber security and double-check unusual requests.

He said: “It certainly is at a higher level.”

Most economic life in Northern Ireland has shut down since social distancing restrictions to hamper the spread of the virus were introduced last month.

Mr Todd said officers had stepped up patrols near business premises which may be closed and see much lower footfall than normal.

PA