Cyber Criminals Targeting High Net Worth Individuals Amidst COVID-19

COVID-19 has presented numerous challenges for individuals and businesses; among them is an increased risk of cyber attack. A study conducted in April by Clutch found that, “44% of all workers are currently working from home 5 or more days per week, up from 17% before the pandemic.”(4) With a large increase in tele-work, comes increased opportunity for cyber criminals. In May, we informed readers of the increased threat of cyber attack to businesses that has developed during the coronavirus pandemic. A new cyber threat has emerged during the months since the Coronavirus crisis began. Cyber criminals are targeting high net worth individuals and families more frequently, now that a significant portion of the workforce is operating remotely.

Chubb research highlights increase in cyber attacks on wealthy individuals

Our partners at Chubb Insurance recently completed a new national survey examining the new and emerging risks of the remote work environment. Chubb’s research revealed cyber criminals are targeting high net worth individuals more frequently. The results of Chubb’s survey stated,

“about 1 in 10 wealthy respondents have been the victim of a cyber attack while working remotely.” (1)

Working from home greatly increases the vulnerabilities cyber criminals exploit and therefore increases the risk of cyber-attacks. Video conferencing services, remote working platforms, and virtual private networks that people use to log in to their office servers, all present a significant opportunity for hackers and cyber criminals.

“Through phishing, malware and social engineering, cyber criminals will attempt to compromise your bank, investments, crypto currency, email and other sensitive accounts for financial gain or use information obtained (i.e., SSN, DOB, Passport info, personal photos and videos, personal emails, etc.) to conduct Identity Theft, harassment or even extortion.(5)”

Why Cyber criminals are targeting high-net-worth individuals

Successful individuals and families as well as family offices with their higher net worth, represent a larger potential financial windfall for cyber criminals. In 2017, a Campden Research study revealed that, “more than a quarter of ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) families, family offices and family businesses, with an average wealth of $1.1 billion, had been targeted by a cyber attack, yet 38% lack a comprehensive cybersecurity plan.” (6)

Not only do the financial resources of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) make them more susceptible to cyberattack, but their lifestyle and public personas also increase their risk. High-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) are often public figures with highly-visible online presence. The more public a person’s persona, the easier it is for cyber thieves to target them. If a Cyber criminal can easily obtain personal information about you online, they will use that information to conduct cyber attacks.

Seven Tips for High Net Worth Individuals and Family Offices to Avoid Cyber Attacks

There are simple steps that can be taken by successful individuals and families in order to minimize their risk of cyber attack:

  1. Adopt a proactive approach to cyber security-Accomplished individuals need to examine their level of risk and adopt a culture focused on cybersecurity. A risk professional or third party specialist should take a concentrated look at the technology used and its’ potential for breach. The network of people surrounding the high net worth individual or family, and the levels of training of personnel within the family office should also be considered.
  2. Family offices should implement an information security policy –After a formal policy is set, staff needs to be well trained on applying the policies and procedures and the policies should be reviewed on an ongoing basis. New and increasingly sophisticated cyber threats emerge on a daily basis, and security policies must be continually reviewed in order to keep up.
  3. Make sure your financial team and family office know their roles – Cyber criminals will pretend to be a high-net worth individual or C-suite executive in an attempt to get a company to pay them. In a 2019 Forbes article, Malcolm Taylor, director of cyber advisory at ITC Secure recounted, “We know a family office where a principal was away traveling in a part of the world where they didn’t have much connectivity and the family office received an email from the principal that says ‘pay this amount of money to this bank account, I’ll explain when I get back’. This looked like a credible e-mail to those at the office,” he says. (7) The principal returned to find that the payment had already been made and the criminal had benefited. Financial teams and family offices should have clear directions concerning who is allowed to withdraw money and/or transfer funds, and all emails with regard to transferring funds, should be verified with a phone call beforehand. All emails that include private information such as banking information, Social Security numbers, or credit card details should be encrypted etc.
  4. Keep security measures up to date-Ensure antivirus software on your home and work laptop and computers is up to date. Change passwords frequently and be sure you secure your home network by changing the router password that came with your router. For an added layer of security, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to access your network.
  5. Only Open Emails from Trusted Sources-Always be skeptical of unsolicited emails and do not click through or forward links from unknown senders.
  6. Take precautions during video calls or Zoom meetings-Paul Dwyer, CEO of Cyber Risk International recommends, not sharing your whole computer screen during video or zoom meetings, as this can unwittingly share personal information. Never share personal information or details from video meetings on social media. Whenever possible use a web rather than an app version of software.
  7. Purchase a Cyber Insurance or Cyber Liability Policy-Key features of Cyber insurance coverage can include identity theft recovery, data restoration, reimbursement for financial loss related to fraud, coverage for cyber extortion, cyber bullying, help restoring your reputation if you’ve fallen victim to online slander and more.

McSweeney & Ricci’s Private Client Group specializes in providing high net worth individuals (HNWIs) and families (as well as family offices), with complete and custom insurance protection designed to mitigate and address cyber risks.

Protecting assets is a key component of any sound wealth management strategy. Our professional risk advisors exclusively serve high net worth clients, providing custom crafted insurance solutions to protect your home, car, boat and business. We’ve partnered with select premium insurance carriers such as Chubb, PURE, Cincinnati, Hanover Prestige and Berkley One to provide our clients with access to protection, beyond that provided by standard carriers.

As a high net worth individual you have complex risk management needs and are at a higher risk for liability claims. If you should experience a loss, our own in-house claims department works with our premium partner carriers to provide a streamlined process and a quick resolution. Our concierge-level service guarantees minimal disruption to your lifestyle.

For more information on Cyber Liability Insurance, cyber fraud insurance or to learn how we can help protect the lifestyle you’ve worked hard to achieve , contact with a member of McSweeney & Ricci’s Private Client Group by calling (844) 501-1361 or connect with us via email.


  1. NU Property Casualty 360-“Chubb work from home survey reveals new and emerging risks” By Danielle Ling | July 17, 2020 at 10:00 AM
  2. Barclays-“Exploiting the pandemic: The growing threat posed by cyber criminals” 06/05/20
  3. CNBC  4/15/20 “Cybercriminals are exploiting fears of the pandemic to steal personal information”
  4. PR Newswire 4/16/20 “66% of U.S. Employees Are Working Remotely at Least Part-Time During the COVID-19 Pandemic”
  5. Family Business Magazine “Cybersecurity attacks target wealthy” by Black Cloak
  6. RBC Wealth Management “Cybersecurity: How high net worth households can protect themselves”
  7. 06/25/19 “How high net worth individuals and family offices can block cyberattacks”