Opportunistic cyberattackers appear to be increasing their efforts against businesses in order to take advantage of the surge in remote working due to the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.

This is according to cybersecurity solutions provider Trend Micro, which found reported a significant climb in the number of ransomware and business email compromise (BEC) attacks taking place over the first two months of the year.

The company, which detects and blocks attacks, detected over two million ransomware attacks in February, a rise of 20% from the previous month.

Trend Micro also saw a significant rise in BEC attempts over the same period, which climbed 24%. BEC techniques involve gaining access to company email accounts in order to con employees into sending money or sensitive data.

They include impersonating C-suite executives to members of the same company, with CFO fraud found to be the most common BEC type in the US, UK and Australia in January and February.

This is particularly concerning during the coronavirus outbreak as remote working creates increased security concerns, and in many cases sees employees using non-standard methods to communicate. This in turn can make BEC attacks easier to pull off.

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Cyberattackers see opportunity as coronavirus drives remote working surge

For cybersecurity professionals, the outbreak of the coronavirus and resulting rise in remote working has proved immensely challenging.

“IT security teams around the world may be under significant pressure today, as the corporate attack surface expands thanks to mass home working demands in the face of the Covid-19 epidemic,” said Ian Heritage, cloud security architect at Trend Micro.

“But now more than ever, they must be on high alert as opportunistic cyberattackers look to strike.”

For companies, the advice is to be wary, and to increase protection where it is lacking.

“Our detections of BEC and ransomware both increased by over 20% over the first two months of the year. Whilst it’s good to see us blocking more threats for customers, it could also point to cyber-criminals ramping up their targeting of enterprises,” he said.

“Layered, connected protection across the organisation is vital to help keep attacks at bay and support business-as-usual in these challenging times.”

Read more: Coronavirus hackers face the wrath of the cybersecurity community