Headless and fearful of pandemic – Easy prey for cyber criminals

Headless and fearful of pandemic – Easy prey for cyber criminals

15. April 2020 0 By Horst Buchwald

Headless and fearful of pandemic – Easy prey for cyber criminals


New York, 15.4.2020


Hackers are taking advantage of the disruption and fears caused by the pandemic to steal personal information from people, cyber security experts told CNBC.

Most countries have stepped up social distancing measures to contain the virus. This includes working from the home office. However, this makes them more vulnerable to attack .

The authorities also publish infection figures online and contact people who may have come into contact with people infected with the virus – a process known as contact tracing.

Experts believe this gives cybercriminals the opportunity to exploit people’s fears by posing as health authorities or sending fraudulent emails. Unsuspecting people are directed to fraudulent websites to indicate whether they have been in contact with an infected person, or they are tricked into downloading malicious software that steals their personal information.

The Covid-19 respiratory disease outbreak has infected more than 1.9 million people worldwide and over 126,000 have died from the disease, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

According to Etay Maor, Chief Security Officer of the cyber intelligence agency IntSights, there were only 190 domain names containing the terms “corona” and “covid” on the Internet last year. By the end of March, more than 70,000 domain names were registered.

Not all of them are criminal, but some have proven to be phishing attacks. Such attacks are usually carried out via e-mail, where online criminals try to access sensitive information such as login and credit card details by posing as a trusted person, e.g. a banking institution or government agency.

The attacks range from fraudulent offers of face masks and hand sanitizers to phishing attacks. In recent weeks, according to Maor, increasingly sophisticated players, including nation-state actors, have come into play.

Yeo Siang Tiong, general manager for Southeast Asia at Russian cyber security company Kaspersky is quoted by CNBC as saying, “Everything looks legitimate, and when you click on the domain you are taken to an Outlook login page, which is actually a phishing site designed to steal your email credentials.

Maor adds that other organizations have also impersonated them. These include the US Department of Homeland Security, the Chinese Ministry of Health, and the World Health Organization. What makes these attacks more difficult is the fact that they are not aimed at a specific entity.


According to Matt Bennett, vice president of Asia Pacific and Japan for VMWare Carbon Black, phishing emails aimed at tracking contacts is a popular method that many attackers use to use their malicious software to steal information.

“Basically, you receive an email that says, ‘Hey, you had contact with Patient X, we need to track XYZ about you, please go to this portal,'” Bennett told CNBC. “I think it’s a common trick that we’ve seen for some time in cyber security where people use a brand or the reputation of a government agency to trigger what they want to achieve.

Bennett explained that while the types of cyber security threats are not new, they are much more effective in the current climate. “In a climate of fear, most people act in a headless fashion.”

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