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Category: Patrick Stone

WEST Chief Information Security Officer Bruce Phillips: Why COVID-19 Requires Stepped-Up Security

Mortgage and real estate companies needed to adjust to new procedures for doing business during COVID. That meant increased reliance on the Internet and much greater vigilance for signs of cybercrime. Executives in the financial services industry are now seeking cybersecurity solutions to protect their businesses from the most pernicious of these – email fraud.

In her September 23 article, NEXT’s Jeri Yoshida writes that, at Williston Financial Group, Executive Chairman and Founder Patrick F. Stone reached out to Bruce Phillips, Chief Information Security Officer at WEST, a WFG company. Stone asked him to create an in-house cybersecurity system to shield WFG National Title Insurance Company agencies, who were “increasingly coming under attacks from mail fraud and other malicious Internet activity.”

Since soft-launching WESTprotect, Philips and his team have averted more than $19.6 million in wire fraud away from customers.

“In March,” she explains, “as the pandemic was gaining a foothold, the FBI was already reporting an increase in phishing attempts.”

According to Phillips, she adds, “By May the Bureau was seeing a quadrupling of fraud reports on its IC3.gov Crime Complaint Center.”

Yoshida asked Phillips how COVID-19 is specifically impacting the mortgage industry, WFG, and demands on WESTprotect, the cybersecurity service Phillips helped develop in response to Stone’s request. It became available to the public this September.

Phillips explains, “COVID-19 has changed everything about the mortgage industry as it interacts with cybersecurity. … The reality is, scammers adapted to the pandemic quicker than the industry did. The upheaval in how business is conducted has been a boon to the global cybercrime industry. Based on discussions I’ve had within the industry, we’re probably seeing a six-time increase in wire fraud attempts and a doubling in their success rate.”

WESTprotect has arrived at an optimum time for the industry, Yoshida suggests. But Phillips cautions that getting the upper hand on cybercrime while we’re working remotely won’t be easy.

“It’s one of the challenges that we have to think around as we come into the new normal,” he says. “I don’t see everyone rushing back into offices.”