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#cyberfraud | #cybercriminals | Cyber-scammers are using the coronavirus to trick victims and steal their money


Electron microscope image of the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 (Image: SIPA USA/ PA Images)

The coronavirus is one of the biggest problems facing humanity right now.

But for heartless cyber-scammers, the spread of COVID-19 is a priceless opportunity to fleece innocent people.

Yesterday, we revealed that hackers have unleashed boobytrapped coronavirus maps which contain hidden software designed to steal people’s passwords and banking details.

Unfortunately, digital crooks have devised another way of hoodwinking people and stealing their money: fake emails purporting to be from the World Health Organisation or other health organisations.

The emails are cleverly crafted to look like genuine warnings about the coronavirus. Yet anyone who clicks on the attachments within the messages will find themselves in a world of pain for lurking inside these innocuous-looking files is ‘malware’ designed to perform various nefarious tasks.

These might include stealing passwords so criminals can crack into your email account or personal information which can be sold to identity thieves. Crooks will also want to gain access to your bank account.

Hackers are always looking for new ways to target victims (Image: Getty)

The emails could also be ‘phishing’ messages designed to fool people into handing over this information by persuading them to fill in forms which look convincing but are actually honeytraps designed to steal victim’s data.

This tactic is so widespread that experts at the US Department of Homeland Security have issued an urgent warning.

It wrote: ‘The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warns individuals to remain vigilant for scams related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

‘Cyber actors may send emails with malicious attachments or links to fraudulent websites to trick victims into revealing sensitive information or donating to fraudulent charities or causes.

‘Exercise caution in handling any email with a COVID-19-related subject line, attachment, or hyperlink, and be wary of social media pleas, texts, or calls related to COVID-19.’

It offered the following advice to anyone concerned about falling victim to scams: ‘Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails and be wary of email attachments.

‘Use trusted sources—such as legitimate, government websites—for up-to-date, fact-based information about COVID-19.

‘Do not reveal personal or financial information in email, and do not respond to email solicitations for this information.

‘Verify a charity’s authenticity before making donations. Review the Federal Trade Commission’s page on Charity Scams for more information.’

A map showing the spread of the coronavirus

The tech firm Kaspersky recently warned that ‘fear of the coronavirus infection is being leveraged by cybercriminals for their malicious activities’.

Kaspersky’s technologies have found malware disguised as documents which relate to the coronavirus.

These are sent to victims in emails which look genuine and encourate them to open an attachment. But once they do, the malware is installed on their system and let loose to wreak havoc.

Malware analyst Anton Ivanov said: ‘The coronavirus, which is currently hotly debated in the media, has been used as a bait by cybercriminals.

‘So far, we’ve identified ten unique files, but since this type of activity is common to popular media topics, we expect this number to increase.

‘As people continue to worry about their health, fake documents that are said to educate them about the coronavirus may be spreading more and more malware.’





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