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Brexit Could Fuel Rise in Cyberattacks, Barclays says

Michael Behr


Brexit cybersecurity Barclays

With uncertainties rising in the face of a no-deal Brexit, cybercriminals may exploit vulnerabilities as they exploited similar issues during the pandemic.

Barclays has released new data warning that businesses face a possible rise in the number of cyber-scams due to issues surrounding Brexit.

The bank warned that it had seen a 20% increase in business scams over the last five months as cyberattackers take advantage of the uncertainties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the end of the Brexit transition period less than a month away, Barclays has warned that criminals could seek to take advantage of the event in a similar way.

“Many businesses across the UK are busy preparing ahead of the Brexit transition deadline. However, they need to be on their guard as fraudsters will often ramp up their efforts during uncertain periods,” said Barclays Head of Fraud Jim Winters.

“Business owners, perhaps not used to the new rules following our departure from the EU, may find it more difficult to differentiate between genuine and fake claims.

“It’s important that business owners and their staff are aware of the different type of scams that can occur and if they’re ever in doubt, they should always double check with their bank or a source they know is genuine.”

Impersonation scams were the most popular used by cybercriminals, according to the bank data. These accounted for 42% of all attacks suffered during the reported period and increased by 79% over the past five months.

The second most popular scam were purchase scams, at 25% of the total. These involve scammers tricking businesses into buying non-existent items. This was a particular concern over the pandemic when demand for PPE soared over what was available.

With no trade deal established between the EU and UK, despite the looming deadline, this has created numerous uncertainties for UK businesses preparing to cope with a post-Brexit regime.

For example, it is still unclear how data transfers between the UK and EU will function. With potentially £1.6 billion on the line for UK companies and the threat of fines under GDPR, cybercriminals could exploit this lack of clarity in their attacks.

The introduction of new legislation and regulations as the UK negotiates new deals and introduces new laws will also present opportunities for cybercriminals.

Barclays provided advice to avoid being affected by cybersecurity scams.

  • Be sceptical of unexpected calls and emails – these are a major vector for cyberattacks. Criminals could claim to be from a bank, the police, or another company. Never disclose personal or banking details, transfer money to another account, or download software, when requested from an unsolicited call.
  • Do independent research  – whether analysing new sellers or verifying the credentials of a caller, research is a powerful tool. This means distrusting any phone numbers, links or email addresses sent to you. Even if it appears to have come from a trusted source or authority – when in doubt, check.


Cybercriminals thrive on uncertainties, and 2020 has seen its share of them. The massive shift to remote working means that workers are physically isolated from their colleagues and unsure of standard ways of working.

All this creates potential openings for cybercriminals to exploit. Furthermore, the increased use of telecommunications as part of everyday work means that common tactics, such as vishing and malicious emails can gain additional traction.

In addition, attacks have become more sophisticated. Not only are cyber attackers performing more research on their targets to create credibility, the use of deepfake technology means they can imitate trusted colleagues.

Michael Behr

Senior Staff Writer

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