Ask any computer crimes defense lawyer, and they’ll tell you that cybercrime is something that you’ve always got to watch. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, your level of vigilance should be even higher, because online crime has been soaring to all-new heights.

What’s New With Cybercrime?

You’re likely familiar with all the basis on computer criminality—how devious actors will try to target well-meaning individuals and businesses, stealing their data and other assets for personal gain. As the COVID-19 pandemic has ebbed and flowed during its numerous waves, cybercriminals have been refining their techniques and increasing the pressure.

Specifically, there seems to be a rise in the amount of phishing attempts—fake emails and other communications designed to lull the target into a false sense of security and deceive them into divulging sensitive information. Millions of dollars have been ransomed from businesses already, and that trend doesn’t show signs of letting up.

Why have criminals been upping this sort of attack during the pandemic? For starters, a rise in cyber crime was predicted anyway, on account of so many employees transitioning to remote work (who weren’t used to WFH or didn’t have sturdy policies in their workplace regarding WFH already). It’s easier to catch employees unawares during such transitory periods, and phishing makes for one of the easiest ways for criminals to pull a fast one.

Finding and getting over on an unsuspecting human is often less involved than trying to exploit flaws in computer code. Even in the face of efforts on the part of employers to beef up email security, criminals are able to find successful exploits thanks to the human element.

As we alluded to earlier, it’s remote workers who have the biggest target painted on their backs in this scenario, because many of them are still getting acclimated to WFH and the various technologies that go with it. This is combined with criminals taking advantage of pandemic fears—tailoring their messages to fit a COVID theme and more easily trick employees into complying with their schemes. Once they’ve got that critical info, it’s just a matter of time before they’re able to implement ransomware and other malware to turn a quick buck.

This all begs the question, of course, how can you keep yourself secure in this period of increased vulnerability and danger? There’s no one-size-fits-all methodology, but there are multiple, simple steps that you can take to help reduce your risks, such as:

  • Using varied, strong passwords for all of your logins
  • Enabling two-factor authentication for all accounts
  • Using a VPN for accessing sensitive information
  • Using a full-service internet security suite
  • Updating all of your software regularly
  • Watching what you post on social media
  • Monitoring the news so you know when cyber breaches are rampant
  • Verifying that messages aren’t coming from suspicious parties
  • Reporting communications you deem suspicious

It might also help to review the Department of Homeland Security’s quick cybercrime fact sheet to help stay in the know. Stay sharp, and do what you can to avoid cybercrime!