Beware: Hackers and scammers have been using the coronavirus pandemic plaguing the globe to carry out cyberattacks.
COVID-19-themed scams and other security incidents related to it have been on the rise as hackers seek to prey on people’s fears and anxieties amid the virus outbreak, according to experts.
“The cyber risk just went up,” Lukasz Olejnik PhD., an independent cybersecurity researcher and consultant told The Post Thursday, adding that “there is a stream of coronavirus-themed cyberattacks or their attempts.”
The cyberattacks are typically coming in various forms of phishing scams, according to Olejnik, who noted that hacker exploitation during a heavily news-covered crisis “is something we have frequently seen abused.”
“But never in the history of the modern digital world had we experienced a global, prolonged crisis” like the coronavirus pandemic, Olejnik explained. “This is something totally unprecedented.”
“What makes this even more complicated is that today more and more people are expected to make extraordinary actions — like work from home, use non-standard software or procedures — on an ordinary basis,” he said. “This is also part of the reason why the risk goes up. Many usual assumptions were simply thrown out of the window.”
In New York City, the NYPD has warned locals of coronavirus-related scams involving hackers using websites to sell fake products or using “spoofed emails, texts and social media posts” to steal personal or financial information.
There have also been reports in the Big Apple that scammers were calling New Yorkers to set up bogus testing for the potentially deadly virus.
Earlier this month, elite hackers even tried to break into the World Health Organization, Reuters reported this week.
WHO Chief Information Security Officer Flavio Aggio told the news outlet that there has been “a big increase in targeting of the WHO and other cybersecurity incidents.”
Also this month, the US Health and Human Services Department suffered a cyberattack on its computer system.
The number of coronavirus-themed scams has been steadily increasing over the last couple of months as the virus spreads around the world, according to private network service provider NordVPN.
“This may be the most dangerous time to be online,” Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN Teams said Thursday, adding that “those least informed are in most danger.”
“Hackers are exploiting very real fears about the coronavirus through fake emails and scam websites,” Markuson said. “People are giving up private information and downloading malware without a second thought.”
Markuson said phony emails from hackers posing as health officials are the “granddaddy of coronavirus scams.”
Other common coronavirus-related scams, according to Markuson, include, fake coronavirus maps similar to the legitimate Johns Hopkins University interactive map which has been tracking COVID-19 cases globally, and fraudulent coronavirus websites that host phishing scams, distribute malware or sell non-existent cures and supplements.
According to Olejnik, organizations and people working from home equipped with multi-factor authentication “are safer.”
“For all, common sense is essential now,” the cybersecurity expert said.
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