COVID-19 Unleashes a Plague of Cybercrime

Published: May 20, 2020 by Michael Bruemmer

While many businesses have suffered slowdowns or shutdowns related to COVID-19, one industry is thriving, to the potential detriment of others: Cybercrime, including data theft and identity fraud.

It’s essential for companies of every size to shore up their defenses, and for those who store sensitive customer data to have plans for dealing with data loss if it occurs. In the event of a data breach, Experian® Reserved Response can be an indispensable resource for achieving the best possible outcome, as teams can be drilled proactively to respond to an emergency situation.

The COVID-19 outbreak has emboldened digital criminals, who are exploiting the chaos and confusion of the crisis by unleashing new waves of scams and attacks.

The FBI has warned of a surge in cyber threats and fraud amid the pandemic. As of April 21, 2020, the Bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center had reviewed more than 3,600 complaints related to COVID-19 scams, including fraudulent charity drives and websites advertising phony vaccines and cures 1.

The FBI also warned of traditional email and text-messages scams that have adopted pandemic themes, using the outbreak and resultant changes in security procedures as excuses for having payments or funds transfers rerouted, requesting “confirmation” submission of passwords and personal information, etc.2

The escalation in cybercrime has resulted in at least one high-profile data breach. In April 2020, a security flaw in the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) website exposed sensitive business account and identity information for nearly 8,000 small businesses.3 The breach came during a flood of applications for loans and assistance related to COVID-19. Small businesses can be popular targets for cybercriminals, because they often lack the data security resources found in larger companies.

Heightened levels of criminal activity come as many companies’ defenses are stretched thin:

  • Many staffs are reduced, with members are working from home, subject to reduced hours or even laid off
  • IT and data-security teams may be sidetracked from regular duties supporting remote workers
  • Rapid acquisition and deployment of new laptops and other devices for employees working from home may lead to incomplete testing and unanticipated security vulnerabilities
  • Last but far from least, employees at every level of the organization are under great stress coping with the new normal, and even the most conscientious may inadvertently let their guard down

The combination of weakened corporate defenses and more aggressive criminal attacks escalates the ever-present threat of data breach and underscores the importance of an effective plan for addressing a breach and managing its aftermath.

The Experian® Reserved Response team can help companies plan for the possibility or inevitability of a data breach and develop a detailed rapid-response plan.

In the event of a breach, Experian Reserved Response is the only solution that resolves and responds to data breaches quickly and efficiently while providing companies infrastructure and personnel as needed to support and protect employees and customers.

Reserved Response enables companies to respond rapidly and thoroughly to breaches with services including:

  • Dedicated Resources to manage the rapid build-up in volume of customer queries following the public notification
  • Support that includes a dedicated call center with US-based agents, a toll-free number, and 7 days a week breach response
  • Infrastructure to respond including sufficient phone, web, and application capacity to absorb spike in breach volume on top of normal operating volumes
  • Readiness with training for customer-facing staff, dedicated account management, guaranteed service-level agreements (SLAs), and data breach simulations and live drills to develop a response muscle memory

Experian® Reserved Response is the only program that guarantees SLAs and can have your response plan ready in as little as 3 days. Other ‘free’ options cannot guarantee this and do not offer dedicated agents for your response.

Experian’s Data Breach and Reserved Response teams are active and fully operational during the COVID-19 crisis, under a business continuity plan that allows delivery of all services, which are located within the US, while maintaining the safety and security of all employees.

For more information on the Experian Reserved Response program, please call 1-844-999-2743 or email reservedresponsesales@experian.com.

Companies experiencing live data breaches should call the Experian Data Breach Hotline at1-866-751-1323 or email databreachinfo@experian.com.

1 Department of Justice Announces Disruption of Hundreds of Online COVID-19 Related Scams (Press release), April 22, 2020.

2 FBI Anticipates Rise in Business Email Compromise Schemes Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic (Press release), April 6, 2020.

3 SBA reports data breach in disaster loan application website, The Associated Press, April 21, 2020.