High-Net-Worth Individuals Are Cyber Targets, Even More So During The Coronavirus Pandemic
“Bob” is a high-net-worth CEO of an immensely successful financial services institution. Like any good husband and father, he worries about the safety of his wife and children. And like any good business leader, he recognizes his fiduciary responsibilities and wants to safeguard his company.
So, a couple of years ago he invested $50,000 in a home security system that hinged on cameras and sensors, all integrated with devices linked to the Internet that only he and his wife (and his most trusted security aide at the firm) controlled. Or so Bob thought.
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What Bob didn’t realize was that cyberthieves could turn his security system inside out and upside down. In other words, the technology he thought was protecting his family was, in fact, making them and their finances far more vulnerable, since it lacked adequate password protection, wasn’t patched, and wasn’t properly managed.
Suddenly, the bad guys – cyberhackers – had a wide-open means of entry, not only to Bob’s house and his family’s devices, but to his and his company’s proprietary information and the documents he works on at home.
The name has been changed, but Bob’s dilemma is all too real. Multiply it tens of thousands of times over, and it’s what high-net-worth (HNWIs) individuals in our society confront every day, and are even more likely to now, as cybercrimes escalate during the pandemic. In other words, the reward for all your work to “get to the top,” is to instantly become a target in a cyber world. The more you earn, the more you become a target.
Just because you’ve got “sophisticated” technology and access to 24/7 “security” doesn’t mean you’re invulnerable to cyber hacking. In fact, as in Bob’s case, misunderstood or misapplied technology can prove wholly inadequate – or even worse – provide the keys to your castle.
Think for a moment about how careless teenagers can be about their digital devices, utterly transfixed by them one moment, unable to find them the next. Most kids aren’t overly conscientious about changing their passwords and acquiring special cyber protection. Cyberthieves prey on the children of wealthy families, knowing that a hacked tablet or smartphone could unearth family treasure.
“Many if not most wealthy individuals tell themselves, ‘Well, I’m not a target,’” argues Dr. Chris Pierson, the CEO and Founder of BlackCloak, a cybersecurity firm that specializes in protecting HNWIs and corporate executives.
“In truth, if you’ve got a combination of a great deal of money and any Internet connected devices, you’re a massive target. And you should be taking extraordinary measures to protect their digital lives and financial security.
“Clients who get hacked often lose more than money. They lose their reputations or see their company brands get decimated. Once a brand or a reputation gets soiled, it’s hard to un-soil it,” says Pierson.
According to a 2017 study conducted by Campden Research in partnership with the international law firm Schillings, fully 28% of HNWIs have been the victim of at least one cyberattack. Even more alarming, more than a third of respondents indicated that they do not have a cybersecurity plan in place. To help you with the math, next time you’re out for dinner with another couple traveling in the same economic sphere, at least one of you has been breached.
Robin Rathmell, who helps direct Kobre & Kim’s International Private Client practice, maintains that, “Prominent, wealthy individuals always have a target on their backs. Whether it is a cybercriminal, a private or commercial adversary, or even a rogue government authority, many if not most HNWIs will experience attacks on their assets and sensitive information at some point.”
No single strategy can fend off these threats, says Rathmell. “Only a holistic approach – one that accounts for financial, reputational and legal risks together – can truly mitigate risk. HNWIs and those advising them should remember that proactive risk mitigation is always better than reactive firefighting,” he advises.
To strengthen proactive risk mitigation and keep cybercrooks at bay, BlackCloak uses a combination of data intelligence, proprietary and enterprise-grade software, and other special tools.
Conventional identity theft prescriptions are not enough, Pierson says. Once an identity has been stolen, “monitoring” mechanisms do little to actively prevent a breach, hack or digital home intrusion, he tells clients.
Instead of attempting to define the prophylactic technology that firms like BlackCloak employ, let this layman provide an analogy. When you climb into a luxury car and click on the seatbelt, you don’t think about the hundred and one things that the automaker put into that moment, from the safety of the keyless ignition, to the GPS equipment, to the tautness of the seatbelt, to the way the rearview camera engages, to the individualized inflation of your seat pads, to the tilt of the steering wheel and the way the seat is positioned, et al. You just get in the car and drive, secure in the knowledge that the technology will work to protect you.
HNWIs need to recognize that with great wealth comes great responsibility. As Pierson and Rathmell both point out, like it or not, the rich and powerful have a legal and societal target on their backs. They can make that target somewhat smaller by dedicating significant amounts of their fortunes to philanthropy – by doing good since they’ve done so well. And by comporting themselves in public and private with dignity and restraint.
Even then, the trolling and criticism – and threats against them – will be severe, from both a financial and reputational standpoint. In this digital – and now pandemic – age everyone – HNWI or not – is a target, so if you have the resources to invest in enhanced security measures, what’s stopping you?
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Richard Levick, Esq., @richardlevick, is Chairman and CEO of LEVICK. He is a frequent television, radio, online, and print commentator.