2/18/2016

Cyber Criminals Target Wealthy


When you entrust your money to a fund supermarket, wealth manager or another financial services firm, you hope for healthy returns and minimal investment disasters. 

But behind the scenes, the companies that handle your money are fighting to keep your assets and data safe from targeted hacks.

“It’s one of the things that keeps our members awake at night,” says Liz Field, chief executive of the Wealth Management Association.

As long as the internet has existed, companies have been subject to a barrage of hack attempts, many of them indiscriminate: simple malware, sometimes contained in “phishing” emails, seeks openings wherever it can.

But the UK has undergone a rapid rise in targeted attacks, in which criminals try — with a high degree of human involvement — to access specific information or assets. 

This can range from customer details that will be sold on to enable fraud, to trading information for use on the markets, or material that could embarrass companies if published in a Sony-style hack.

Some 81 per cent of large organizations and 60 per cent of small businesses found their digital defenses had been breached in the past year, according to UK government data released in 2014. 

Financial companies are at the sharp end, not just because of the money they manage but because of the sensitive personal data they hold. 

The risks have grown as services that initially lagged behind the digital revolution, such as accounts held by fund and pension customers, move fully online.

“The information that the firms we represent have is the information that is of greatest interest to cyber criminals because it’s where the money is. 

They are a focus of attack,” says John Barrass, deputy chief executive of the WMA.

Retail banks are among the most high-profile targets of hackers, and face constant assaults, but specialist firms handling investments can also be tempting to the discerning criminal, says Michael Soppitt, a director at Parker Fitzgerald, a financial services management consultancy.

“The average value of an account at an investment management firm is significantly higher than at a retail bank, and high-value customers’ information is more saleable,” he says.
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