Belfast Police Warn of Cybercrime Surge

Police in the Northern Irish capital city of Belfast have issued a warning over a recent rise in cybercrime.

A senior police officer said businesses had experienced a "surge" in cyber-attacks since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Many of the attacks are scams concocted by fraudsters seeking to exploit the health pandemic.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) assistant chief constable Alan Todd advised businesses to ensure their IT security systems are fully up to date. He also urged businesses to be extra wary of any unusual communications.

“It is very clear that from a strategic level through the National Crime Agency, through the global level, there is a real surge in attempts, at all levels, from individual members of the public right through to business ransomware," said Todd, addressing an online seminar of Northern Irish business leaders organized by the Institute of Directors.

“All of the usual methods of attack have been ramped up at this time, and therefore the risk arising out of this for businesses and indeed householders is higher than it was."

Todd said that the tragic growth in cybercrime related to the outbreak of COVID-19 was expected.

“It was predicted before the start of this, and we are certainly seeing evidence of that.”

According to the officer in charge of the police force's coronavirus response, much of the fresh wave of cybercrime is low-level in terms of impact but could target a high volume of victims. He added that unfamiliarity with new resources, such as grants given to businesses struggling to stay afloat since lockdown measures were imposed, made employees more vulnerable to cyber-threats.

Addressing the seminar, the officer said: “Your staff may be involved in transactions and conversations around schemes that they have no familiarity with. Of course, when you put staff into that position the potential for that to be exploited by fraudsters and others in the cybercrime world is even higher.”

While lockdown measures remain in place in Northern Ireland to slow the spread of COVID-19, Todd said that officers had increased patrols in areas where business premises were closed in a bid to keep crime at bay.

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