Family Businesses and the advent of increased cybersecurity issues

As family offices scrambled to respond quickly to the health and safety issues and the economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, they also had to contend with another threat to their businesses.

Since the pandemic hit this served as a springboard for cybercriminals disguising themselves as trusted banks, merchants, co-workers, IT administrators and the like to trick people into divulging sensitive data. Malta is not immune to this recent phenomenon as has been evidenced also in our banking institutions.

Phishing emails may use scare tactics to trick users into interacting with malicious links or attachments, or direct them to websites designed to steal their credentials. Any individual within a family business can be targeted.

Working in this treacherous landscape could be particularly dangerous for those family business offices whose staff are making their first foray into working remotely.

Many family business offices have been very deliberate in the past in prohibiting or limiting remote access due to confidentiality concerns. Now they may find themselves in a situation where they are scrambling to set up the proper remote access in a well-controlled way at a time when fraud campaigns are spreading quickly. Business email compromise (BEC) scams that are designed to trick victims into transferring sensitive data or funds have skyrocketed in recent months. These scams also look to steal login credentials so cybercriminals can infiltrate organizations possibly even more so with the likes of family businesses as the very nature of them and their trust philosophy makes them more vulnerable.

Wealthy families are always a high-profile target for cybercrime. Now that most of the world is working remotely and many are transacting more via email, it is more important than ever to be on high alert for fraud and safety issues. Family business employees are the first line of defence, and it is critical to provide education and alerts to employees to urge them to be sceptical of email communications and requests from unfamiliar sources or even those that may look familiar on the surface. Common recent attempts include phishing and BEC emails disguised as government announcements with official-looking logos as well as emails with subject lines of interest to your business in light of impacts of COVID-19. The emails may attach official-looking documentation such as invoices, shipping receipts and job applications with harmful malware or ransomware embedded in them or links to fraudulent educational, healthcare or charity-related sites that can open the door for malicious activities and threats.

Transitioning to remote work at home can be done without compromising security. At a time like this it is important to consult with the experts and ensure that the proper tools and risk management processes are in place to enhance monitoring and detection of threats, to educate employees and protect assets, data and devices.

The current environment is certainly testing operational, financial and risk management capabilities. It is essential to identify critical data, processes and reporting needs to drive decisions and enable proper risk management and controls. Family business offices should be evaluating their processes and tools to ensure they have the capability to gather, aggregate, report and distribute critical information as well as execute and manage required activities in a well-controlled and timely manner. The current environment may expose some gaps that will need to be remediated. Also, the entire family business community is learning the power of digital collaboration tools, which will undoubtedly have an impact on how family businesses conduct business and operations going ­forward.


(All factual and statistical information presented in this blog has been obtained from an extract of a blog from  ) Follow us on our Facebook page and Family Business Office website at

At the Family Business Office we can offer you assistance in dealing with family business succession planning issues through incentives supporting advisory and mediation services. Contact us today on