Threat Update: COVID-19 Malicious Cyber Activity

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The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) released a warning regarding an alarming increase of COVID-19 themed malicious cyber activity. As if the world wasn't going through enough already!

Sadly, this was to be expected, and both businesses and individuals must keep a vigilant eye on their data (now more than ever). Malicious cyber actors know that most people feel tense and anxious about the entire situation, so they'll leave their guard down much easier. They use phishing email messages to direct users on sites that look official but instead infect the devices used to access it.

There is also the risk of giving your personal information to ill-intentioned websites without even realising it. According to the ACSC, the number of site registrations that are related to the COVID-19 situation has increased in the last period. Of course, not all are created with malicious intent, but we have to assume that some are.

Besides infected devices and loss of personal data, people and businesses are also at risk of being victims of ransomware and banking Trojan attacks. Most cybercriminals target sensitive data such as passwords, usernames, and bank details which can be further used to access other accounts.

Cyber Threats in the COVID-19 Era

Unsecured Networks

One of the main vulnerabilities that are being exploited right now, besides the pandemic, is the fact that many businesses were forced to implement remote work procedures. This means there was no time to test the process and find vulnerabilities that may pose a threat to the company's data security.

We wrote several blog posts on this topic, so you can learn more about making the switch to remote workers and how to manage the situation in a way that's safe and convenient for everyone.

This step is mandatory since many home networks lack even basic security elements.

Various Phishing Methods

The ASCS warns us that, besides the regular phishing methods (email and various notifications), malicious actors now use SMS messages that include a link. These messages are crafted to look as if they come from the government or other high-authority institutions.

If a user clicks on the link, he/she will be redirected to a site containing a Trojan (this is the current approach) that can exploit Android devices and steals financial data.

In other cases, the threat came as an email that looked like it was sent by an official institution, such as an international health organisation institution or the Australia Post. These emails contain links that redirect to malicious websites. There are also emails with attachments that look like the World Health Organisation (WHO) is sending vital instructions regarding the COVID-19 crisis.

Quick Money Scams

The pandemic left many people without jobs and the fear of an already uncertain future can push people towards actions that they would usually dismiss. As such, the ASCS also warns about sites/jobs that promise quick money online but hide money laundering operations and other criminal offences.

Of course, you should also be wary of fake employment ads. These work just like the phishing campaigns and their main purpose is to get users to submit their personal information.

Stay Safe

While it does sound scary, the ASCS didn't issue this warning to create panic. Their task is to keep Australian people and businesses informed about the threats lurking in the cyberspace. After all, information is power and when you know your enemies, you also know the measures to take to stay safe.

As such, we highly recommend reading their guidelines on how to protect yourself and your organization against phishing and how to offer a secure remote working environment to your employees. We also recommend reading our article on Data Loss Prevention in Google Workspace (if you use this platform).

If you do find you or anyone in your team are receiving these scam's, its best you contact your Business IT Support team to adjust your spam filtering settings. Or you can contact us for help too.

We want to end this blog post with a message of hope. Yes, the world looks like it went upside down and forgot to send us the memo, but if we're careful and keep calm, we'll come out of this stronger and better prepared!