Increased remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated privacy and cybersecurity concerns, and likely has not changed the finding in Experian’s 2015 Second Annual Data Breach Industry Forecast:

Employees and negligence are the leading cause of security incidents but remain the least reported issue.

A more recent state of the industry

For the past several years, thousands of businesses have been hit with phishing scams during tax season. Through these social engineering scams, hackers obtain employee Forms W-2 for filing fraudulent tax returns seeking large refunds. These phishing emails are typically sent as clients begin the process of issuing W-2s to employees.  Often employers do not

Form W-2: Understanding Your W-2 FormIn recent years, there has been an uptick of W-2 phishing scams, and their consequences for an employer extend well beyond leaked data, including potential employee class action litigation.   Just last week, a federal court in Illinois rejected a motion for class certification in a data breach case alleging disclosure of employees’ sensitive tax information

In April of this year, which seems far longer than eight months ago, we posted about an alert from federal agencies warning that cyber threat actors were exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to fuel phishing and other attacks. Those efforts have continued throughout the year with attackers now retooling their messaging around the COVID-19 vaccine. Criminal

In the US, many organizations anxiously awaiting assistance under the CARES Act are becoming the targets of cyberattackers looking to feed off of the massive relief being provided by the US treasury. Yesterday, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) issued a joint alert warning of a substantial increase in these attacks, providing helpful guidance concerning the nature of the attacks and related information.

Specifically, the alert provides information on exploitation by cybercriminal and advanced persistent threat (APT) groups of the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic. It includes a non-exhaustive list of indicators of compromise (IOCs) for detection as well as mitigation advice. The alert notes that the surge in teleworking has increased the use of potentially vulnerable services, such as virtual private networks (VPNs), amplifying the threat to individuals and organizations.

Organizations may not be able to prevent all attacks, but there are steps they could take to minimize the chance and impact of a successful attack, and to be prepared to respond. Here are just a few of those steps.

Before an Attack

  1. Build the right team
  • Ensure you have an IT team in place, whether internal or through a third-party vendor, that is well-versed in emerging threats and prepared to support the organization in the event of an attack.
  1. Secure the systems
  • Conduct a risk assessment and penetration test to understand the potential for exposure to malware.
  • Implement technical measures and policies that can prevent an attack, such as endpoint security, multi-factor authentication, regular updates to virus and malware definitions/protections, intrusion prevention software and web browser protection, and monitor user activity for unauthorized and high risk activities.
  1. Make your employees aware of the risks and steps they must take in case of an attack
  • This is particularly critical now – educate employees on how to recognize phishing attacks and dangerous sites — say it, show them, and do it regularly. This includes instructing them to use caution when clicking directly on links in emails, even if the sender appears to be known — verify web addresses independently.
  • Employees should avoid revealing personal or financial information about themselves,  other employees, customers, and the company in email, including wiring instructions. If they must, they should confirm by phone.
  • Direct employees to pay attention to the URL of a website. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com vs. .net).
  • Instruct employees on what to do immediately if they believe an attack has occurred (e.g., notify IT, disconnect from network, and other measures) and what not to do (e.g., deleting system files, attempting to restore the system to an earlier date, and the like).
  1. Maintain backups
  • Backup data early and often.
  • Keep backup files disconnected from the network and in separate locations.
  1. Develop and practice an “Incident Response Plan”
  • Identify the internal team (e.g., leadership, IT, general counsel, and HR).
  • Identify the external team (e.g., insurance carrier, outside legal counsel, forensic investigator, and public relations).
  • Outline steps for organizational continuity — using backup files and new equipment, safeguarding systems, and updating employees.
  • Plan to involve law enforcement (e.g., FBI, IRS, Office of Civil Rights, and so on).
  • Plan to identify, assess, and comply with legal and contractual obligations.
  • Practice the response plan with the internal and external teams, reviewing and updating the plan to improve performance.

After an Attack
Continue Reading UK and US Issue Joint Cybersecurity Alert Concerning Explosion of COVID-19 Phishing Attacks

The debate over working from home continues, reaching a high point in 2013 when Marissa Mayer, then CEO of Yahoo, sought to curb the practice. However, as the Coronavirus continues to spread across the U.S., more companies are instructing their employees to work-from-home as a social distancing technique to help contain the spread and

As announcements relaying the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) continue daily, governmental agencies at all levels are offering information and guidance, and businesses are scrambling to prepare and protect their employees and customers. As part of a larger group in my firm helping to synthesize all this information, there is an aspect of responding to

Small and midsized enterprises (SMEs) continue to be targeted by ransomware, phishing and other cyberattacks; the consequences of which could be devastating. Those consequences include putting SMEs out of business, which is unfortunately the case for one small medical practice in Battle Creek, Michigan, as reported by HIPAAJournal.

The reality is that the effects

The Garden State has been updating its data privacy and security laws and you may be wondering why. On October 28, 2018, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the New Jersey State Police the New Jersey announced statistics on the effects of data breaches in 2017 on New Jersey residents. Based on that report, here

Last February, the IRS issued a warning to all employers regarding the resurgence of a W-2 based cyber scam. The scam, which targets businesses during tax season, was also “spreading to other sectors, including school districts, tribal organizations and nonprofits.” In August 2017, the IRS renewed its warning to  tax professionals and businesses as part