Hackers Stoop to New Low with Coronavirus Scams
A surge in emails and websites leading with “coronavirus” keywords could be traps. Hackers are using fear about the contagion as a tactic to breach networks.
If there was ever a doubt that hackers lacked basic decency, these nefarious individuals are taking advantage of the coronavirus epidemic to breach unsuspecting businesses.
It’s a well-established fact that digital bandits continue to think-up new schemes to trick employees into giving away login and password information, so they can pilfer off data or insert ransomware. Exploiting the general public’s fear about coronavirus represents a new low.
According to cybersecurity research conducted since the pandemic spread from China, hackers are taking control of networks by piggy-backing on coronavirus news, social media posts, emails, and domain names that include a pertinent keyword. Check Point research indicates the number of circulating domain names, including “coronavirus,” “novel coronavirus,” or “COVID-19” has surged in recent weeks. Many of these websites are fraudulent efforts to get everyday people to click on a link, type identity information, or download Malware.
“Concerns about COVID-19, or novel coronavirus, seem to have become as contagious as the virus itself, with headlines spreading across virtually every media outlet,” a Check Point report states. “As the virus spreads across the globe, people are naturally searching online for the latest information and updates on how it might affect them, and what they can do to protect themselves and their families. And as you might expect, cyber-criminals are quick to take advantage of these concerns for their own gain.”
The report points out that domains and trending articles with search engine optimization keywords are 50 percent more likely to contain malicious applications than previously created websites. Digital bandits are keenly aware that employees commonly use their devices to access business networks and seemingly secure data housed on the Cloud.
Hackers Launched Coronavirus Phishing Schemes
Ranked among the more clever scams being used is are phishing schemes that holds out the promise of a vaccine. According to Check Point, the website vaccinecovid-19.com was registered in Russia and launched on Feb. 11. The unsecured site reportedly offers coronavirus detection at a cost of approximately $300. Needless to say, it’s a con that has frightened and potentially infected people providing personal information and credit card numbers.
Once a user clicks through on a link, the website downloads malware into their device. From there, it’s a quick jaunt into sensitive identity information, bank accounts, and whatever data cybercriminals can hold hostage or sell on the dark web. Portals that have recently employed keywords such as “vaccine” with “coronavirus” also have a higher probability of being a trap laid by a hacker.
“We discovered over 1,600 in the past week that seemed to be fishy had the word ‘corona’ in them. (Cybercriminals) try to get customers to complete an action, so they unknowingly download malware such as ransomware,” Check Point Head of Threat Intelligence Lotem Finkelstein reportedly said on Fox News. “It’s always mind-play between cybercriminals versus the public — the potential victims — and the cybersecurity world. The cybersecurity world is always trying to search for these things before they have a major impact.”
Hackers Prey On Coronavirus Fears
The general public should also remain vigilant when receiving unsolicited emails. It remains highly unlikely that anyone would randomly receive a direct report from health organizations such as the CDC or WHO. Yet, cybercriminals are leveraging fear and strategically targeting people who live in the proximity of a verified coronavirus outbreak.
“The most prominent coronavirus-themed campaign targeted Japan, distributing Emotet in malicious email attachments feigning to be sent by a Japanese disability welfare service provider,” a Check Point report states. “The emails appear to be reporting where the infection is spreading in several Japanese cities, encouraging the victim to open the document which, if opened, attempts to download Emotet on their computer.”
Once installed on a device, the Trojan malware lingers undetected, gathering personal identity information that can be used to form a definitive profile or simply clean out a bank account down the road.
Protect Yourself From Coronavirus Schemes
Those concerned about the contagion needs to keep in mind that hackers generally require you to make a misstep to penetrate your device or business system. Continue to maintain high-quality cybersecurity protocols by not opening an unsolicited email, especially if it coronavirus-themed. And, avoid non-authoritative websites when researching health and safety measures.
It may be in your best interest to stick with the CDC, which is the country’s most reliable resource. If you have any concerns or suspicions that you may be the victim of a phishing scheme or other attempted breach, speak with a cybersecurity expert.