Stop the spread
It used to be that the two certainties of life were death and taxes. In these pandemic times add a third. Hackers. Those using their selfish guile to prey upon others, particularly during the current COVID-19 calamity, for their own personal gain. The last thing the world needs is another global virus pandemic.
The trick is for you to burst their bubble before they burst yours.
Several cybersecurity firms are reporting an uptake in attacks against a range of targets, all using the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as a hook to hoodwink their victims into running malware viruses.
There is cybersecurity data from Italy that shows that cybercrime has more than trebled (compared with monthly averages for the previous year) since the full impact of the virus has hit. This shows that cybercriminals are aggressively capitalising on the state of chaos as the Coronavirus pandemic overwhelms the country’s health system and kills thousands of people. This pattern is being replicated throughout the world.
The point of vulnerability is this: At a time when people are rallying together to generously care and share with others, the cybercriminals’ actions are even more insidious.
Climate of fear
Essentially, they take advantage of the climate of fear, uncertainty and doubt to try to scam and defraud vulnerable people or those who have let their guards down. Being mindful of this tendency for scammers to exploit a crisis for profit, as well as watching out for their common techniques, can help to keep you safe online during this difficult time.
Here is the state of play in New Zealand. Cybercriminals (both in New Zealand and overseas based) are exploiting the confusion created by the crisis on all aspects of life , particularly the economy.
They are targeting the Government’s Covid-19 wage relief announcement by masquerading as representatives of the Ministry of Social Development to scam unsuspecting claimants. Other common scams to watch out for are people selling fake Coronavirus cures. Or scammers contacting people via email, phone and/or SMS to say they have tested positive to Coronavirus and then demanding credit card details to allow for treatment.
As always, the main method of attack will be phishing, where criminals send emails pretending to represent a relevant authority, so they can exploit your trust in that authority to trick you. Be on the lookout for emails about Coronavirus that claim to be from official sources, potentially claiming to offer you financial assistance or requiring you to provide personal information.
Catching a Phisherman
Always remember that email is an insecure technology. Making it relatively easy for cybercriminals to use hacking tricks to make it look like they are someone they are not. Some phishing emails will have obvious errors, like spelling and grammar mistakes. Others may seem entirely realistic, but the sender’s address may not match the organisation the email claims to represent. The most convincing phishing emails are almost indistinguishable from legitimate emails, including the sender’s address. If you are uncertain for any reason, make direct contact through a telephone call to the organisation’s official telephone number to confirm the legitimacy of an email.
Unsafe in quarantine
Some people coming back into New Zealand from abroad have been asked to go into quarantine facilities because they have no self-isolation plan or are displaying Coronavirus symptoms. If you find yourself in this kind of facility, avoid the urge to use any free Wi-Fi available in the hotel you are being quarantined in. Many people don’t realise that public Wi-Fi is insecure and that it is possible for hackers with the right equipment to intercept and tamper with their data. In this case use mobile data for any sensitive Internet tasks to be more secure in an untrusted environment where you don’t control the Wi-Fi.