Research shows that better corporate security has resulted in some hackers shifting their sights to the estates and businesses of wealthy families.

Threat intelligence experts and research groups have seen a shift of cybercriminals increasingly targeting ultra-high net worth (UHNW) individuals and their family businesses.

Lewis Henderson, vice president of threat intelligence at UK-based Glasswall Solutions, says some attackers find it increasingly challenging to get into large corporations, and are putting more of their efforts into attacking the super-rich and their estates and businesses.

“We’ve found that they are using similar tactics and techniques, such as using email and attachments and ransomware,” Henderson says. 

The conclusions drawn by Glasswall mirrors research conducted by UK-based Campden Wealth, which found that 28% of the UHNW families reported having been the victim of one or more cyberattacks. While UHNW families have an estimated net worth of at least $30 million, Campden Wealth recommends that those setting up single-family offices have wealth of $150 million or more. Many of the families that open single-family offices have far in excess of $150 million, with their average net worth standing at $1.2 billion, according to the Campden Wealth/UBS Global Family Office Report.

Dr. Rebecca Gooch, Campden Wealth’s director of research, says phishing was the most common type of attack, followed by ransomware, malware infections, and social engineering. She says UHNW individuals are targeted in a variety of ways including via their operating businesses, family offices, or through the family members themselves.

More than half the attacks were viewed as malicious. And, nearly one-third came from an inside threat, such as an employee intentionally leaking confidential information. Around one-in-ten were deemed accidental.

“The results of these attacks were notable,” adds Gooch. “More than a quarter of family offices and family businesses we surveyed lost revenue, one-fifth had their private or confidential information lost or exposed, and 15% suffered either a blackmail or ransom situation, or had a loss or delay in their company’s activity.” 

Defense 

Glasswall Solutions’ Henderson says there are at least four steps ultra-high net worth individuals can do to protect themselves from cyberattacks:

·      Hire a cybersecurity specialist. Henderson says whether it’s as a consultant or a permanent position with the company, a cybersecurity expert  can fully brief them on security trends.

  • Define policies and procedures. The consultant’s first job should be writing specific policies and procedures for classifying sensitive data. Typically, security experts have various templates they can follow, most notably from the national law enforcement agencies that publish guidance.
  • Have the security specialist explain the varied technology. Once a person gets hired and has established security policies, UHNW individuals need the security expert to explain how no single technology will protect them. Henderson says they are typically more than willing to pay for the protection, but the security expert must explain the elements of defense-in-depth – from antivirus and antimalware software to firewalls, intrusion prevention, and data loss prevention tools.
  • Make provisions for the right kind of cyber insurance. UHNW individuals are more than willing to pay for cyber insurance, but it’s up to the security expert to explain the need. It’s very important that they obtain a policy with fraud protection in the event of a social attack, because not all cyber insurance policies explicitly cover social attacks.

Campden Wealth’s Gooch adds that wealthy families should not consider cybersecurity planning merely an IT problem: the company’s board or top person also should be involved. Proper cybersecurity awareness training, such as teaching people how to notice suspicious emails, can also prevent breaches.  

Families also need to stay up-to-date on what information has been made public about them and their companies, Gooch says. The more an attacker can learn about a family or a business, the more he or she can organize an attack. Finally, Gooch says adequate incident response plans can control the extent of the damage. Families need to define roles and know who to call in the event of an attack. 

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Steve Zurier has more than 30 years of journalism and publishing experience, most of the last 24 of which were spent covering networking and security technology. Steve is based in Columbia, Md. View Full Bio

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