High Volume of Property Transactions Increases Hacking Risk
Cybercriminals are targeting legal professionals amidst increased property conveyancing activity.
Law firms and legal practitioners have become the target of cybercriminals since lockdown restrictions eased at the beginning of summer. The Solicitors Regulation Authority, or SRA, has warned the industry about a considerable surge in scamming attempts which have plagued the legal profession since July onwards. From then until September alone, the industry received 50% of the entire year’s scam alerts so far, signalling that cybercriminals have waited until market activity has increased before supercharging their own efforts to cause chaos.
Types of Scams
The latest cybercrime attempts use varying strategies to try to disrupt operations or steal data and money. Typical scamming attempts often use email or website impersonation in a bid to dupe busy legal or financial professionals and turn them into their latest victims. By sending messages which appear to be from a legitimate source, or pretending to be a practitioner working at a law firm, scammers are able to deceive legal professionals and cause largescale problems.
In fact, the Solicitors Regulation Authority reported that they were alerted to six separate types of email alert scam sent on a single day, highlighting just how prevalent this type of cybercrime activity has been post-lockdown.
Challenges of Remote Working
Of course, remote working has created enormous challenges for IT security, as employees are largely entrusted to follow best practices without the usual monitoring or training that they would necessarily have experienced in a supervised office environment. The latest Ponemon Institute and Keeper Security research highlights that UK businesses in any sector are at a heightened risk of being hacked. This is due to the evolving challenges of remote working, which many organisations have been largely unprepared for. A significant 60% of those businesses involved in the research claim that they have already been targeted by hackers, which was made possible in 32% of cases by lost or compromised devices.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has changed the priorities of IT teams and their associated budgets, with 57% believing that their current finances don’t allow for the complexities of protecting a team of home working professionals.
Stamp Duty Holiday Pressure
The incredible success of the government’s stamp duty holiday has caused unprecedented work volumes for conveyancers across the UK. Conveyancing solicitors in Essex reveal that buyers have been rushing to take advantage of tax savings, which can reach as much as £15,000 depending on the purchase price of the property you’re interested in. However, the fast-paced and busy environment of the conveyancing industry can cause significant challenges to those involved in the property chain. Cybercriminals will be making the most of the opportunity to intercept financial transactions, through fraud, due to the large sums of money that change hands during any type of home sale or purchase. Bank transfer fraud increased by 19% last year, according to stats reported by UK Finance, which amounted to a total loss of £31.7m. With the stamp duty holiday increasing activity in this area, there are multiple more chances for fraudsters to obtain cash as it moves from or to anyone involved in the process, including buyers, sellers, conveyances and financial institutions.
Legal teams must be extra vigilant during the stamp duty holiday and beyond to keep security to a high standard, but the SRA alerts and guidance will significantly thwart hacking attempts by unscrupulous cybercriminals.