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Why the COVID-19 pandemic is aiding cyber criminals

It comes as no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to claim the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and has stalled many economies. This isn’t even the worst news as despite the fact that many people have become unemployed with limited or no savings due to COVID, phishing scams relating to this pandemic continue to increase on a rapid scale. 

Furthermore, these scams have evolved to become much more sophisticated as scammers go beyond previous themes to ones that are impacted by the pandemic such as unemployment and welfare benefits. 

With uncertainty impacting on millions of people all the over the UK who are concerned about new jobs, retaining existing ones and getting benefits when needed. It goes without saying that the pandemic becomes much more tricky day by day. 

The national lockdowns that have been placed upon us due to COVID-19 has led to more and more people staying at home and using the internet than has previously happened. From simply staying in contact with family, working from home, learning new skills, this changed pattern in our behaviour hasn’t gone unnoticed by cyber criminals who are looking to take advantage of people’s insecurities to steal sensitive information and money. 

Did you know that 1 in 4 COVID-related domains are malicious or suspicious? 

It was revealed in a recent survey that scammers are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to develop more sophisticated phishing scams making use of new techniques to increase their chances of success. 

In one such case, even though phishing campaigns still happen about pandemic information or the availability of tests, many of the most recent campaigns are based on questions or concerns around unemployment and economic recovery. 

Despite the fact that it might be easier to analyse trends and determine phishing activities related to COVID-19 have reduced dramatically, the statistics go against this assumption. The research has indicated that from over 1,200 domains related to COVID-19 being registered each day, 25% of these are suspect or malicious. Furthermore, it goes on to add that of 600,000 sampled domains related to COVID-19, 125,000 of these were malicious websites used for phishing scams. These campaigns are shifting more towards targeting people who have reservations about returning to the office, losing jobs and children at school. 

However, the main problem is the fact that the vast majority of people are unprepared for this type of attack. The worrying trend came as a result of a recent study that revealed that just 5% of the British public were unable to detect or differentiate between phishing scam emails and genuine ones. From this, it is clear that most phishing scams that use pandemic-related concerns will succeed. 

How can Internet users protect themselves against COVID-19 phishing scams? 

It goes without saying that if you are remote working, you need to ensure that you maintain a level of suspicion and stop believing incoming messages and emails at face value. If you receive either a message or an email which portrays a level of urgency and requires personal information from you, it is important to treat this with caution. 

Furthermore, the users in your business will need to be aware of shortened website URLs. It is important to realise that just because a website is marked as ‘safe’ or is using SSL encryption, it is still worth double checking it before you click on it. 

Last May, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) revealed that the British public had highlighted over 160,000 emails in the first two weeks with a vast proportion mentioning about face masks or COVID-19 tests. As a result of the proactive public, the government’s cyber-security team was able to trace and remove over 300 websites which were fake. 

Next Steps? 

If you are worried about your workforce’s internet browsing habits and would like to undertake some bespoke cyber awareness training or are looking at additional Cyber Security solutions that will help to safeguard your business from online threats then please get in touch with Advantage today to discuss your specific needs.  

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