COVID-19 is on everyone's minds across the world. It's the center of news coverage and daily conversations. With experts projecting different statistics and new cases every day, anxiety is increasing. But on top of stock markets crashing and schools and universities closing, coronavirus is also affecting cybersecurity.
Just as people were getting ready for tax season in the United States, coronavirus struck. Now, the virus is spreading further each day, with a reported 260,000 cases as of March 20. This phenomenon offers hackers a prime opportunity for coronavirus scams.
Scammers and hackers thrive off certain emotions. Anxiety, desperation, curiosity and fear are what they seek to elicit from victims. Amidst COVID-19 and economic concerns, more and more people will turn to the internet for information and support while feeling those emotions. The number of scam victims will then increase.
Specific scams are circulating that you should keep an eye on — almost all of which operate through email. They divide up into individual and business scams.
One of the main scams you may potentially see in your inbox mimics government health officials. The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are among the top organizations you may see emailing you. If these messages are scams, they will ask for your credentials or donations in exchange for false promises of information or resources.
This situation is happening all over the world. The WHO issued a warning for all to stay alert of cybercriminals posing as its organization. While these alerts help fight off scams, you will still need to be cautious, no matter where you live. Italy, Vietnam and Ukraine, for instance, have recently faced cybersecurity issues during their coronavirus outbreaks.
Another phishing email that is circulating amongst the chaos discusses HIV results. The emails use the name and credibility of Vanderbilt University to alert you that your results are in. However, if you click on the attachment, you will download malware onto your device.
Anxiety over economic status or personal finances leads to the next case of fraud. Cryptocurrency — a digital currency — is growing. Hackers are using current global events to ask for crypto donations — or your credentials. The UK issued a warning regarding cryptoassets amid this crisis.
These are the main scams circulating among the general public across the world. There are also cases of deception, however, that target businesses and employees.
With government-mandated social distancing and lockdowns happening throughout the world, scammers are also targeting employees.
The U.S. government had already initiated plans to standardize CMMC compliance services for all Department of Defense and contract workers. However, the COVID-19 scams could bring about a whole new round of hacking attempts for government and civilian employees alike. These consequences trickle down and interfere with the supply chains of businesses without the proper resources to protect against cybercriminals. These organizations will then suffer from inadequate protection due to a lack of production from higher-ups.
Elsewhere, more and more companies are switching to remote work to prevent the spread. With less face-to-face communication, hackers and scammers are attempting to pose as HR departments in emails. These emails ask for private and secure information, like login credentials or financial details. With stressful communication and a rising pandemic, employees may not question giving up their information.
Tips for Preventing Coronavirus Scams
There are simple steps you can take to avoid falling victim to any of these scams.
First, you should ensure your cyber protection is reliable by having different passwords across your accounts.
Next, if you do receive a phishing or scam email, identify the source. If it's not someone you know, be wary of opening the message. Avoid clicking on attachments or links, too, if you don't recognize the sender. Remember, your place of employment and any other organizations you're a part of shouldn't ask for your credentials. You can take an extra step to scan for viruses on your computer as well.
Last, remain skeptical — both during this pandemic and afterward. If something feels off, then it probably is. Ensuring that your devices have excellent cybersecurity will help you stay safe online so you can focus on the other matters at hand.