Hackers Exploit the COVID-19 Pandemic for Cyber-Attacks

Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the global crisis coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) to attempt cyber-attacks!

The Wave of Coronavirus Cyber Scam

While the world is busy fighting with the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), cyber attackers are misusing this global crisis for their malicious use. The outbreak of newly discovered endangering infectious disease coronavirus (COVID-19) has kept people across the world on their toes to save lives. 

Cyber scams are exploiting COVID-19 pandemic
Cyber scams exploiting COVID-19 pandemic

In this sensitive situation, cybercriminals are leaving no opportunity to wreak havoc in the world of cybersecurity. In the month of February 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) released an advisory on ongoing cyber scams that involved the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). The disease is reported to be caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Cybercriminals being among the first ones to spread disinformation for their vicious intent, attempted cyber scams with the aim to exploit people’s fear. These scams involve phishing and social engineering, fraud websites spreading misinformation, fraudulent sale of counterfeit goods, malicious applications of corona effect updates and many more.  

Watch Out for COVID-19 Cyber Scams!

As COVID-19 is itself a significant global security risk to every individual and organization across the world. Whereas, the cybercriminal activities, on the other hand, are not helping in efforts to contain the virus effect. The cybersecurity concerns are running high right now as organizations, local governments, and hospitals on a large scale are becoming the prime targets of cyber attacks due to this pandemic.

Amidst this COVID-19 pandemic, organizations across the globe are now running businesses from home to keep the health safety of every working individual as an utmost priority. But the downside of implementing the “Work From Home” policy is that employees are no more surrounded by a cyber-secure working environment. 

With everything operating virtually and zero security firewalls, employees have become highly vulnerable targets for cybercriminals. These cyber threat actors are deploying cyber attacks in the name of COVID-19 to misguide and trick users. Here are the most recent cyber scams that hackers have attempted by exploiting COVID-19:

  1. Phishing Email Scam
COVID-19 related phishing email
COVID-19 related phishing email

Lately, reports of COVID-19 phishing email campaigns surfaced almost immediately as soon as the confirmation of infection began spreading.

Hackers have been observed luring victims with phishing emails containing URLs, malicious attachment and downloads that promise important security documentation or infection affected areas on the global map. The increasing number of phishing emails linked to COVID-19, Lockdown, Work From Home, products & solutions for coronavirus has massively targeted the end-users and especially employees. These phishing and extortion emails are being spread in the name of coronavirus to create panic among victims and trick them into clicking on malicious links.  

     2. CovidLock Ransomware 

A new malicious  domain has been discovered, coronavirusapp[.]site that offers to download the Android app for tracking updates on the virus. However, the malicious application holds a ransomware named CovidLock which changes the password used for locking the device, thus denying victims from accessing their phones. This ransomware demands a ransom in Bitcoin and if the victim fails to pay the ransom, the malware would erase the entire data of the device.

According to the news report by the Deccan Herald, the CovidLock demands for $100 in bitcoins as ransom. If the victim denies or fails to pay the ransom within 48 hrs, the ransomware warns of permanently deleting all contacts, images, videos, messages and user’s sensitive information on the phone. It also threatens to leak the login credentials of the user’s accounts on online public platforms.  

     3. Fake “Corona Antivirus” Software 

Among the recently discovered websites that are exploiting the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to target online users, the “Corona Antivirus” software proves to be the most absurd malicious software! The website of this software that goes by antivirus-covid19[.]site (as per the source) claims to save people from getting infected by the corona if the user installs this digital antivirus.

According to the website, the antivirus has been developed by “scientists from Harvard University”. The website also states “the scientists have been working on a special AI development to combat the virus using a windows app”. But hackers have created this fake “Corona Antivirus” software to shell out malware into systems. This software comes with a bot management feature that restarts and shuts down the infected device along with updating the bot client including other processes. After installing this software, the computer system of the user gets infected with malware that adds victims to the BlackNET RAT.

     4. Malicious Coronavirus Domains

Let’s just say that while the world is suffering from the global crisis because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, cybercriminals are finding the situation as a golden opportunity to launch cyber attacks. Recently, various malicious domains have been reported related to coronavirus (COVID-19), offering absurd services and solutions related to the disease. These domains are being spread and distributed among users through social engineering tactics to target victims into clicking on the malicious links.

Malicious version of COVID-19 updates tracker
Malicious version of COVID-19 updates tracker

Cybercriminals are selling malicious versions of the famous interactive map of COVID-19 cases around the world. The malicious versions of the legitimate map include stealer malware that steals information from the victim’s computer system. 

How to Ensure Cybersecurity in WFH Amidst COVID-19 Lockdown?

Many large and small companies are hugely impacted by cybersecurity risk concerns due to the implication of work from home. During the period of COVID-19 lockdown, every working employee is currently outside the office security setups, with no firewall to secure information. This demands the best cybersecurity measures for work from home.

It’s time to not panic but to stay alert of the prevailing online fraud activities and cyber-attacks. Every individual working from home must follow these practices to shore up the organization’s cybersecurity:

  • Avoid Unsecure Websites

While working from home, it is natural for users to keep a tab on regular updates on what is going around the world. So, for the sake of security, it is better to avoid websites that do not have an SSL certificate as a security protocol. Only visit websites that have HTTPS in the link address. 

  • Beware of Phishing Emails

If you receive any email that highlights COVID-19, coming from an unknown source, make sure to verify it from your IT Security Admin or SOC team. WHO has already issued an advisory stating that fake emails are being circulated in the name of WHO and fake links of the organizations.

  • Do Not Store Data Locally

The best way to stay cyber secure is by ensuring that no confidential data of the company is stored locally on the computer. Employees should be encouraged to store data on secure cloud-based applications.

  • Secure Your Home Network

Use VPN (virtual private network) on your work system before connecting to the home’s network. This network creates an encrypted virtual tunnel for the traffic passing between both home and work networks.   

  • Encourage the Use of Strong passwords

Develop the habit of using complex and strong passwords that are hard to decode. Apart from that, use the two-factor authentication to keep your accounts hard to access by hackers. Also make sure to change your passwords periodically like once in three months.

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