With the coronavirus pandemic creating havoc across the world, cybercriminals are rapidly taking advantage of the situation to spam the public and spread copycat computer viruses. As stress levels rise, fraudsters and scammers are attacking unsuspecting individuals and spreading malicious content. Links, messages, emails, and click-worthy content related to the Covid-19 pandemic have been forwarded to people around the world, looting millions of their personal information.
Cybercriminals have only increased in number during pandemic, launching recording numbers of cyberattacks. A cyberattack can be defined as a malicious and deliberate attempt to breach the private information of another individual or organisation. There are many different types of cyber-attacks; criminals may carry out damage through infected domains, malware downloaded onto a computer or eavesdropping on a device to steal personal data.
A surge in cyberattacks
A sudden surge seen in cybercrime was noted from March 2020 onwards, around the same time that the Covid-19 pandemic began to spread across the world. Attackers impersonated global organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), and UNICEF in order to spread computer viruses and malware. Sectors that were heavily targeted included healthcare, governmental organizations, educational institutes, hospitality, retail and transportation. These industries were actively engaging with vulnerable sectors of the population and cybercriminals quickly took advantage of this.
Coronavirus-inspired malware attack
Many of the coronavirus-inspired malware attacks took place on victims suspected of being infected by Covid-19. Examples of this include:
- Malicious emails containing infected Word documents, which install malware designed to steal banking and finance information. These emails were often sent from accounts pretending to be public health centres.
- An android app that appeared to provide real-time updates on global coronavirus cases, but was instead downloading ransomware onto user devices.
- Websites that purport to share coronavirus related news but were instead providing an opportunity for hackers to conduct espionage operations.
How can you protect yourself?
A number of steps can be taken to protect yourself from these kinds of cyberattacks.
- Always have virus protection installed on your device in the form of antivirus software and firewall systems. Such software is available from various reputable antivirus companies.
- Be very cautious about clicking on links related to coronavirus news. Even if trusted friends and family forward such links, do not visit websites that seem suspicious. Always check the source and authenticity of any website before sharing it.
- Do not open files attached to emails and remain highly sceptical of the source and the file type. Beware of file types with .exe or .lnk formats.
- To find information on the Covid-19 pandemic, always use a search engine and read data from government organizations and reliable websites.
- Delete files, emails and links of malicious nature and encourage others to do so.
- Educate people around you about these cyberattacks, discouraging them from forwarding suspicious links.
Checklist to ensure cyber safety
Mark-off the following points for all your online devices, to ensure you are well protected against online attacks.
- Continuously monitor privacy and security settings.
- Always use strong passwords for important accounts including banking and social media
- Install antivirus software and keep it updated regularly.
- Frequently back-up online and offline files securely.
- Strengthen your home network.
- Do not use open public networks that appear to be suspicious.
Just as we are sanitising and social distancing to keep the Covid-19 virus at bay, online hygiene is highly necessary to protect yourself against coronavirus inspired internet threats. Virus protection and anti-virus software are essential tools to prevent viruses and malware from damaging your system and will assist you to stay safe online.