With the hit of the global pandemic and its effect on the world, cyber criminals took this to their advantage and capitalized on it.
From the beginning of 2020, people’s lives changed drastically but especially employees and students. Online schooling and working from home are now the new norm and people needed to make this new adjustment while experiencing new threats and tactics from cyber criminals. Before the pandemic, cyber-attacks were a continuous issue for many but with more educational information on how to catch on to their tricks led to lower percentages of successful scams. But now, these criminals have evolved with their tactics that align with the society’s current needs and weaknesses after the global epidemic, some of these tactics include:
An investigations and risk consulting firm based in New York City revealed that ransomware is the top cyber threat that occurred in 2020, specifically after the Covid-19 hit. Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents organizations from accessing their data unless a ransom is paid. These attackers have been targeting hospitals and labs that are dealing with the newly occurring Covid-19 threatening to reveal the data they obtained despite knowing the pressure and responsibilities they are under. In many cases, the organizations give in and pay the ransom to prevent further damage. Recently, healthcare organizations have been fighting back.
The United States and Europe were the ones who firstly experienced a wave of ransomware attacks on higher levels during these vulnerable times. According to a Comparitech study, it was revealed that the attacks which occurred in the US during 2020 approximately cost them $21 billion. One of the first major ransomware attacks that occurred during the beginning of Covid, was on Hammersmith Medicines Research company based in London, they were carrying out lab trials for potential vaccines. They were threatened by cyber criminals declaring they will reveal patient’s information if the money was not transferred. Fortunately, with the help of police and their IT employees they were able to gain back control of their systems.
Email phishing is one of the most used types of attacks among cyber criminals. It is a cyber-attack where one receives an email believing it is from an organization or a trusted individual while in fact, they are imposters attempting to steal personal information. The new topic these criminals are using to lure individuals into believing their emails are genuine is anything related to Covid-19, from campaigning for face masks to claiming that they are from WHO (World Health Organization) or the CDC (Center for Disease Control). Due to the face mask shortage at the beginning of Covid, receiving an email notification of available face masks was a miracle. Many fell for this trick and became victims of email phishing. The emails disguised as from WHO contained links and attachments with updates surrounding Corona, a topic many were attentive to. This led to people clicking on the attachments oblivious to the harm that it can cause. These cyber criminals have become more sophisticated with their new tactics in email phishing. Due to remote learning, they have been more focused on phishing students. There have been emails sent disguised as the individual’s institute wanting information to update their university accounts and unfortunately, students provided them with that information not realizing they are complying to criminals.
Furthermore, with the recent discovery of the new Covid-19 Vaccine, many phishing emails have been sent regarding this news with an attachment or link claiming to be information or a form to sign to be able to receive the vaccine, but in fact the attachments could install a malware or even key loggers which monitor the victim’s keystrokes and saves each number or word they type in. With every recent change that occurs around the issue of Covid-19, attackers quickly adapt and find new ways to take advantage.
Replication of Sites/ Push Notifications
This next tactic is the replication of government sites to Phish people into entering their personal and card information believing they will receive financial support due to being affected from the pandemic. This tactic is successful in result of the financial loss people suffered from losing their jobs or their businesses being shut down. They insensitively capitalized on these peoples struggles and used it to their advantage to reach their goal. Also, since students have begun remote online learning, these attackers took this into consideration and planned their next attacks. They created fake zoom links and notifications and sent them out with intent to install viruses or collect personal information. In addition to that employees, which starting from 2020 were required to work from home, in America reaching 88% during that year (Gartner, Inc. 2020 survey of 800 global HR executives), are experiencing the same scams as students receiving Skype, zoom, teams, etc. notifications and links from their place of work but in reality, it is a trap.
What to Look out for?
Sign’s people should look out for to prevent any future damage include:
– When you receive an email make sure to double check the email domain its being sent from, because there are small details cyber criminals use to trick their victims. For example, when an individual receives an email from the World Health Organization, they would not use a public email domain such as “@hotmail.com”.
– Never download or open any unexpected or unsolicited attachments as they can contain viruses/malware.
– As for receiving push notifications or links to websites your familiar with do not hastily click it instead look out for misspellings which is a hint to their trap.
With the changes of working from home and the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, cyber criminals took this to their advantage and found multiple new ways to phish information from society. Due to people being anxious and in search for answers about the pandemic they tend to not check the source of the emails and messages they receive leading them to a be taken advantage of. With the emergence of these new circumstances new attack tactics emerged as well. Since these new tricks have been uncovered, hopefully online users are more aware and educated on this problem and stay updated with the recent attack vectors used by cyber criminals.
Don’t be a victim to their latest traps!
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