Any company can be subject to hacking attacks, but there are certain types of businesses that draw a lot of attention from cybercriminals and are therefore the most vulnerable to data breach, according to a new report.

In a study by NTT, the telecommunications company that acquired Dimension Data, which specialises in information technology (IT) services, it was found that fraudsters are increasingly targeting insurance, finance and retail companies in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

The most commonly attacked businesses are insurers, accounting for 50 percent of the data breach attempts, followed by finance (44 percent) and retail organisations (3 percent).

In an increasingly digital age, and as more people are working from home, cyberattacks are becoming more prevalent. According to Internet security expert Kaspersky, the UAE saw close to 70,000 cyberattacks on smartphones from January to June this year, with an increase during quarantine.

Data breaches are costing businesses a lot of money, with the average cost of cybercrime for companies worldwide estimated to hit around $5.2 trillion over the next few years, according to the global professional services firm Accenture in a 2019 report.

The NTT Global Threat Intelligence report also highlighted that, as many businesses in the region are also turning to web and mobile applications to process customer transactions, they are becoming more exposed to data breach.

“Cybersecurity challenges across the Middle East and Africa have been compounded by the impact of COVID-19, as phishing attacks leveraging the virus have been seen as early as January 2020, even before the pandemic was declared,” the report said.

It said that cybercriminals have created fake websites masquerading as official sources of information at rates exceeding 2,000 sites per day, and many of them are targeting hospitals and other healthcare organisations.

“The current global crisis has shown us that cybercriminals will always take advantage of any situation and organisations must be ready for anything. We are already seeing an increased number of ransomware attacks on healthcare organisations and we expect this to get worse before it gets better,”  Matthew Gyde, president and CEO of the security division at NTT, said in a statement.

Cyberattacks across industries

According to NTT’s report, many of the cyberattacks spawned by the coronavirus pandemic are quite similar in many industries, although there are some notable differences depending on the nature of business.

Within the finance industry, the global financial markets and banking organisations have been targeted, as e-banking, credit card use and online shopping have increased.

“Financial and banking institutions, as well as their customers, are being hit with a barrage of cyberattacks with phishing attempts at the top of the list,” said the report.

In the retail sector, the report noted that as more people shop online, domain registrations of fake websites and phishing emails have surged.

“As users make more use of online sites, they become more susceptible to phishing attacks – especially when directed at inexperienced online shoppers,” said the report.

“Consumers need to make sure they’re not clicking on links in emails, especially from retailers which promise extraordinary discounts, but manually go to the website. In addition, customers should purchase only from known retailers,” it added.

(Reporting by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Seban Scaria)


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