With many businesses asking their teams to work remotely, security experts are warning of spikes in cyber-crime attempts.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a surge of phishing attempts on unsuspecting individuals. One such attack used the logo of the CDC Health Alert Network claiming to provide a list of local active infections, before stealing confidential information from the unprepared victims.
Cyber criminals are looking to take advantage of this period of global uncertainty, reinforcing the urgent need for everyone to be extra vigilant when it comes to cybercrime.
We strongly recommend Australian lawyers and conveyancers utilise the tools and processes available to them to mitigate this risk, including:
Install and update your anti-virus software
Ensuring your anti-virus software is up-to-date is critical. Cyber-criminals can use a number of different methods to try and attack your devices, anti-virus should always be your first line of defence in protecting you and your business.
Keep operating systems (OS) and browsers up-to-date
Updated OS and browsers add protection from security issues that could be used to compromise your information. Restart your devices regularly to make sure updates are fully installed.
Cyber-criminals use weaknesses in outdated software to scam individuals and businesses. The best way to keep you and your business safe is to action software updates the instant they become available. We also recommend that you shut down and restart your device frequently for automatic updates to proceed.
Do not use public WiFi
If outside of the home or office, we do not recommend the use of free WiFi. Instead, use your mobile as a hotspot (or purchase a 4G mobile router). This will provide you with a safer connection online.
Public WiFi is easily compromised by hackers and your personal information easily obtained.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
When you’re working from home for an extending period of time, use your company’s VPN to make sure that you maintain a secure connection to all your corporate services and applications, away from the prying eyes of cyber-criminals.
Phishing – protect you and your clients’ information
With reported email phishing attacks on the rise and the risk becoming more tangible across the world, it has never been more important for us and the broader e-Conveyancing network to use the tools available to us to protect against this threat.
While you’re working remotely and limiting face-to-face client meetings, bank and trust account details can be communicated safely via the free PEXA Key app between you and the homebuyer or seller. The app removes the need to use email, mitigating any risk of succumbing to email phishing attacks in the sharing of critical transaction information.
Lawyers and Conveyancers who use InfoTrack can also use Securexhange to communicate sensitive information with real estate agents.
Multi-factor Authentication (2FA/MFA)
Check the security and privacy settings of all your essential services and make sure they have 2FA/MFA available.
When logging into PEXA, members must use MFA to access their accounts. Although users have the option of receiving their MFA code via SMS or the smartphone app, we find the most reliable option to be the latter – via the PINGID application.
The code is generated immediately in the smartphone app for users to transcribe into PEXA. The SMS option can experience latency issues with some telecommunication providers, meaning the code is not received by the user for some time. If you’d like assistance moving from SMS to the smartphone app, please contact PEXA’s Support Centre on 1300 084 515.
Protect your passwords
Keep your passwords and pin codes safe. Now might be a good time to change your passwords and use a password manager e.g. LastPass and 1Password to ensure you have unique passwords for all your different accounts. This ensures that if one of your accounts is compromised, the others are protected, and the impact is minimised.
Kind regards David Willett Head of IT Security, PEXA
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Whilst businesses around the country and indeed the globe are making important preparations to respond to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), it is important to understand that cyber criminals can use a situation like this to their advantage.
Targetted phishing attacks, with malicious content disguised as Coronavirus notices, may be launched to capitalise on the public's desire to learn more about the outbreak. There have already been reports in the media about scams attempting to steal personal information or infect people's devices with malware that distributes false information or scam products.
In one example, a phishing email that used the logo of the CDC Health Alert Network claimed to provide a list of local active infections. Recipients were instructed to click on a link in the email to access the list. Next, recipients were asked to enter their email login credentials, which were then stolen by scammers.
What to do to protect yourself
If you want to educate yourself further on COVID-19, only look at reputable sources like the World Health Organisation, Centre for Disease Control or the the Australian Governments Department of Health websites.
Always be on the lookout for tell-tale signs of email phishing from emails that appear to come from reputable sources. Remember, you can look at the sender’s details – specifically the part of the email address after the ‘@’ symbol – in the ‘From’ line to see if it looks legitimate.
Be weary of social media posts that attempt to bait you to click on links to gain more information. Social media is notorious for being used to spread misinformation despite the review processes that have been implemented by these sites in recent times. As per point number 1, go direct to reputable or government sources to get information on COVID-19.
You can check out our link on phishing emails here to get more general information on how to spot scams.
Finally make sure you have good anti-virus protection installed on your device, whether it be a laptop or mobile.
Kind regards David Willett Head of IT Security
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The Legal Practitioners Liability Committee has recently posted an insightful article that details a use case of email compromise leading to funds being transferred to a fraudster.
Be alert and get to know the warning signs that your client may have been compromised. A request to change account details at the last minute? This should always be followed up with a phone call to confirm it is legitimate.
Take a look at the LPLC article here to learn more!
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We use our mobile device and its installed apps every day . T he apps we download make it easy for us t o do everyday things like check our mail, tap onto the tram /train /bus , update our Instagram story, pay for coffee, track our calories and now even to track our property settlement ( s hameless plug of PEXA Key ). All co nveniently completed on our way in to work .
With all this private information available at the touch of a button , keeping our phones and chosen apps secure has become increasingly important.
Here are some handy tips to assist you in doing so .
1. Download from official stores
Cybercriminals are known to create rogue mobile apps that mimic trusted brands in order to obtain users’ confidential information. To avoid these type s of scam s , a lways download new apps from the official app stores , check the publisher is f rom the official supplier e.g. Property Exchange Australia Ltd) and when the app w as last updated . For example , PEXA Key is available exclusively on the Google Play St ore and Apple App store .
2. Use device security
All smart phones have multiple methods of authentication available. We advise you to:
Not leave your phone unlocked . Make sure your phone is set to auto lock within 30-60 seconds of inactivity ; and
Use at least one of the authentication methods available to unlock your device e.g. facial recognition etc.
If using a pin code to access your phone, do not use the same pin for your apps or write the m down on a piece of paper . Try using a password manager app to store , keep track of and generate new passwords and pin codes.
3. Call your provider
If you lose or m isplace your phone, call your provider to ensure your SIM is deactivated to protect your phone and the apps on it from potential criminals. This is good advice for your clients who use PEXA Key . It is also important that they remember to notify you in the unlikely event that they lose their phone.
4. Anti-virus on your phone
Your hand-held device is no different to your laptop o r PC and is similarly susceptible to scams such as phishing . Consider installing anti-virus software onto your mobile device.
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