The other virus threat: Surge in COVID-themed cyberattacks

Wed, 2020-03-18 05:47

WASHINGTON: It may look like an email from a supervisor with an
attachment on the new “work from home policy.” But it could be
a cleverly designed scheme to hack into your network.
The abrupt move of millions of people to working remotely has
sparked an unprecedented volume of attacks to trick people into
giving up credentials to attackers, according to security
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Sherrod DeGrippo,
head of threat research for the security firm Proofpoint.
“We are seeing campaigns with message volumes up to hundreds of
thousands which are leveraging this coronavirus.”
The pandemic has created a perfect storm for cyberattacks, with
millions of people working in unfamiliar, less secure circumstances
and eager for information about the virus and new organizational
policies being implemented.
This opens up a new avenue for malicious actors using phishing
emails or “social engineering” to gain access or steal
sensitive information.
“When someone is working form their home it is a similar threat
profile as at an airport or a Starbucks, you just don’t have that
protection you might have in the workplace,” DeGrippo said.
“And if we’re at home with our family where we feel safe, you
might see a family member hop on to do homework, and might not
understand the security controls. Keeping mom’s and dad’s
computer for mom and dad is the right thing to do.”

Tom Pendergast of the security and privacy training firm
MediaPRO said many of the millions of people adjusting to the new
landscape are unprepared for teleworking.
“It’s one thing if people have been working remotely with
equipment that has been properly configured,” Pendergast said.
“It’s different for people who haven’t had that
Attackers are taking advantage of people’s fears about COVID-19
with scare tactics to get people to click on malicious links or
attachments, but also playing on sympathies with fake crowdfunding
pages purported to be for people who have fallen ill, he added.
Pendergast said health care organizations are especially
susceptible to schemes such as ransomware because “they are less
likely to shut down their systems by refusing to pay.”
This was highlighted with a major hospital in the Czech Republic
hit with ransomware following an email campaign with a coronavirus
“awareness” message, according to media reports.
“The COVID-19 scare has proven lucrative for cybercriminals in
recent weeks as health care institutions scramble to test patients,
treat the infected and protect their own staff from the
contagion,” said a blog post from Filip Truta of the security
firm BitDefender.
“Healthcare infrastructures are highly susceptible to hacker
attacks because of lax cybersecurity skills and safeguards.”

The potential for costly cyberattacks has prompted warnings for
stepped up vigilance.
The French public-private cybersecurity alliance this week warned
businesses to be alert for faked emails related to purported orders
or bank transfers, or phone calls aimed at obtained financial
account information.
The US Department of Homeland Security issued an alert this month
warning that the COVID epidemic has increased threats and that
“cyber actors may send emails with malicious attachments or links
to fraudulent websites to trick victims into revealing sensitive
Hawaii’s attorney general Clare Connors advised residents to
watch for fraudulent emails claiming to be from the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention or experts saying they have
information about the virus.
“Scammers may still offer fake vaccines and other bogus medical
products claiming to offer ‘cures’ for the virus,” a
statement from Connors’ office said.
DeGrippo said virtually all the cyber schemes related to the
pandemic are financially motivated and added that “personally I
find it depraved… it is taking humanity at its most vulnerable
and trying to use that for financial gain.”
She warned that the threats may evolve as attackers craft new
scheme and techniques.
“I can see some attackers sending messages like, ‘I’m in
quarantine and need you to buy something for me,’ or ‘I need
you to make this transfer of funds,’” she said.
“I think we’ll see criminals leveraging the coronavirus to do
more of that.”

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Source: *FS – All – Science News Net
The other virus threat: Surge in COVID-themed cyberattacks