Over a month ago, we discussed how fraudsters were leveraging the coronavirus pandemic to create investment scams purporting to be on the brink of developing a cure for COVID-19. Unfortunately, this was just the beginning of a series of scams associated with the global virus.
The virus has killed approximately 7,160 while infecting another 184,000.
As cities all over the world clamp down on public gatherings, scam artists are flooding the internet with ransomware and phishing shams to exploit the fears of the general public.
Let’s take a look at how scammers are preying on people all over the world, and what you can do to protect yourself during this time of uncertainty.
Malware Coronavirus Tracking Website/App
Cyber threat intelligence company Domain Tools recently reported that its “researchers observed a minor uptick in domain names leveraging Coronavirus and COVID-19.” Upon further investigation, they concluded that many of these new sites are scams.
One of the most notable hoaxes is an Android app available at coronavirusapp.site that claims to “provide access to a map that provides real-time virus-tracking and information, including heatmap visuals and statistics,” according to arstechnica.com.
According to DomainTools researcher Tarik Saleh, the ransomware app, nicknamed CovidLock, “uses techniques to deny the victim access to their phone by forcing a change in the password used to unlock the phone.” CovidLock then demands $100 in bitcoins to unlock the infected device.
Phishing Scams Posing as Health Officials, University Personnel
Scammers notorious for phishing emails are also taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic. One recent phishing scam involved cybercriminals—posing as university personnel—sending college students emails. The emails offered false information concerning school closures and minute-by-minute updates on coronavirus developments.
Another phishing email claims to come from the World Health Organization (WHO). It promises information on how to stay safe during the outbreak. But first, users must provide their personal information via the embedded link.
Both scams attempt to retrieve an individual’s credentials to lock down their device to steal their identity. Posing as WHO or a university gets unsuspecting victims to let down their guard. People are more susceptible during a global crisis.
How to Defend Against Coronavirus Scams
Unsolicited emails should always raise a red flag, especially during times of crisis. If you receive an email claiming to offer vital information accessible only by clicking a link, delete it.
If you think the email is legitimate, determine which organization it came from. Visit their website directly rather than trusting the suggested link. Even if the information is valid, it’s still recommended that you access it via the official website.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) also provides several suggestions on how to defend against coronavirus scams:
- Use trusted sources for up-to-date information about COVID-19. This live tracker is a good resource if you want to know how the rest of the world is being affected.
- Do not reveal personal or financial information in an email.
- Verify a charity’s authenticity before making donations.
- Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails and be wary of email attachments.