We spoke with Graeme Batsman from Privé Cyber, who has specialized in protecting HNWIs for more than ten years. He agreed to lift the veil on this industry and tell us about its specific challenges.
NordVPN: What are the main cyber threats high-net-worth individuals and celebrities face?
Graeme Batsman: The simple attacks are still popular, such as breaking into iCloud or email accounts due to guessable email addresses, passwords, and recovery questions. House break-ins are prevalent in wealthy areas, which shifts the concern of a £1000 laptop to “What is the data worth?”. Car thefts (keyless entry) is also a big problem at the moment.
The reason our clients approach us on many occasions is similar to why large firms approach general cybersecurity firms — reactions (to incidents) rather than an enquiry to be proactive.
N: What specific challenges does VIP protection bring to you as a cybersecurity expert?
G. Batsman: There is often no IT manager. The family and their staff move around the world frequently. With a firm, the staff get a new laptop every 2-3 years. Whereas a 15-years old wants a new MacBook every few months, which means keeping up with device registers and security might be tough. If a family goes out and buys new devices willy-nilly without notifying us, the devices have a chance of being infiltrated.
N: How often does the risk come from their staff?
G. Batsman: If a gardener states who they work for on LinkedIn and someone hacks their laptop, plans of estate entrances/exits/cameras could be leaked. This is called a supply chain attack. The principal and their family may be secured, but staff are often overlooked. Employees should be handed pre-secured devices solely for work — tablets, laptops, and smartphones.
N: How well are your clients informed about cybersecurity risks and prevention?
G. Batsman: Fairly poorly. Many house/estate managers and their principals still conduct business on Hotmail addresses! Many folk, including firms, still think “What more is there to install than a freebie AVG or Avast?”. Once you move outside of Western Europe to the Middle East and Africa, defences and awareness go over a cliff edge.
N: Could you share an example of an attack your client had experienced and elaborate on its impact was?
G. Batsman: A client stated that different devices and accounts were under cyber surveillance. If an individual cannot trust anything, it will affect them significantly. In this case, the best action was to start from scratch: buy all-new network infrastructure and devices, and then create new email addresses with security from the ground up.
Another story was an individual in London who had £50,000 lifted and transferred to Beirut. £50,000 to some small firms and individuals is not much, but take a one-man band and it would destroy him.
N: How should HNWIs protect themselves from cybersecurity threats? What security measures do you think are key?
G. Batsman: Think like an attacker, and don’t just think about remote cyber threats. If someone cannot plant malware on your device remotely, they may have a pop at your Wi-Fi or stage a burglary to steal the target laptop. Increased security does not always mean new software and hardware defences — going through the settings of a device or online account with a fine tooth comb can assist greatly.
The four areas to focus on risk-wise are: hacking, malware, theft (loss), and interception. This equates to endpoint security, firewalls, encryption, authentication, VPNs, backups, etc.
N: Cybercrimes have surged, and the trend seems to be getting worse. Where are we heading, in your opinion?
G. Batsman: A slow improvement in the West and even slower outside of the West which is 5-10 years or more behind depending on the country. As antimalware and firewalls get better, social engineering will increase. Ransomware will continue to get worse. Attacks against home offices will also increase since most people are home-based in the last 10 months. And a breach of a large cloud provider will happen in time.
Securing yourself with NordVPN
Rather than waiting for incidents to happen, it’s better to stay proactive and enhance your security. One of the best tools to improve your digital wellbeing is a VPN. It encrypts your traffic and masks your IP address, so neither hackers nor your ISP can see what you do online.
Using a VPN is extremely important when connecting to public Wi-Fi as hackers can create a fake hotspot and steal your passwords, pictures, credit card details, and other data.
With one NordVPN account you can protect up to six devices. You can also install it on your router to secure the whole household. NordVPN is an easy-to-use app, suitable for anyone wary about the dangers of the internet.
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