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Coronavirus: Concerns cybercriminals will stalk jobseekers, target Government payouts | #coronavirus | #scams | #covid19


Scammers honing artificial intelligence and robocalling​ technology will snap at the heels of any new economic and social trends after the coronavirus lockdown, a security expert says.

Two major cybersecurity scandals have focused attention on cybercrime recently.

Team New Zealand lost $2.8 million to a scammer’s Hungarian bank account and the NZX stock exchange called in Government security agents late last week after disruptive blackmail attacks.

Team New Zealand is among the high-profile organisations targeted in recent cybercrimes.

supplied

Team New Zealand is among the high-profile organisations targeted in recent cybercrimes.

Netsafe​ chief executive Martin Cocker​ said cybercriminals would try to take advantage of any new socioeconomic trends emerging from the impact of coronavirus.

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He said criminals are still using income scams, romance scams and fake “remote support” scams to target New Zealanders.

Opportunistic scammers could latch onto trends emerging from the impact of Covid-19, Netsafe says. (File photo)

Supplied

Opportunistic scammers could latch onto trends emerging from the impact of Covid-19, Netsafe says. (File photo)

But if unemployment surges, an increase in jobseeker scams is likely, he said.

These scams overseas have involved con artists promising jobs in exchange for upfront payments.

Cocker said online imposters are also likely to try to fraudulently secure subsidies or payouts if a surge of Government stimulus spending is unleashed.

Crooks could deploy more artificial intelligence (AI) and robocalling techniques in the near future, Cocker said.

Scammers last year used AI to in a “voice-spoofing” scam in Europe in an attempt to defraud a company of NZ$359,000.

The Wall Street Journal reported the scammers used AI-based software to impersonate a chief executive’s voice.

Robocalling includes many strategies. Some local targets might get a call from a foreign number but find the caller hangs up quickly.

Curious Kiwis might then call back, and the scammers use technology to divert calls to a premium rate number overseas.

Robocalls exploiting Covid-19 fears have also been used to trick people in the United States into handing over personal and financial information.

In New Zealand, reported scams surged in April, when the national level 4 lockdown was in force, according to the Government’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT NZ)​.

CERT NZ incident reports for January to June this year (red) compared to the first half of last year (turquoise). The April surge coincided with the national coronavirus lockdown.

CERT NZ

CERT NZ incident reports for January to June this year (red) compared to the first half of last year (turquoise). The April surge coincided with the national coronavirus lockdown.

Reported webcam extortion emails rose from 34 in the first three months of the year to 478 in the second quarter.

Phishing and credential harvesting reports also jumped in the second quarter.

But CERT NZ said reported financial losses in the second quarter were $1.8 million, down from $6 m in the first quarter.

It isn’t immediately clear if the challenging economic conditions Covid-19 created have driven scammers to be more desperate.

CERT NZ incident reports surged in the second quarter of 2020.

CERT NZ

CERT NZ incident reports surged in the second quarter of 2020.

Cocker said the Team New Zealand scam was a fairly “traditional” con where somebody went to the trouble of intercepting or changing credentials.

Court documents viewed by Stuff suggest the substitution of a single character in an email address triggered the scam.

The assaults on NZX and other organisations in recent days were DDoS​ (distributed denial of service) attacks which broadly aim to overwhelm targets with internet traffic.

Cocker said the high-profile attacks and ongoing threat of cybercrime should encourage businesses and agencies to take cybersecurity seriously.

“It is hard to get proactive attention on security and safety matters. In organisations, people often think about it after the fact.”



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