The effect of the coronavirus pandemic on cyber crime

Posted on 08/04/2020

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Cyber criminals are exploiting the public panic caused by the current coronavirus pandemic to launch attacks designed to steal data and sensitive information. 

With more people than ever working from home and relying on the internet for everything from communication to online shopping, criminals have taken advantage of the Covid-19 outbreak to facilitate fraud and cyber crime. Overall, it has been said that cybercrime is likely to increase to over 40% during the pandemic.

The increase has been caused not by one specific area of cyber crime, but with a number of different attacks targeting vulnerable people, business executives, home workers and just about anyone who is worried about the present outbreak. This doesn’t solely include crime focused on the coronavirus topic itself, but also in the drastic changes in our daily activity like the apps we use, the entertainment we download and the more time we spend online.

As for many of us, our homes have now become our workplace, which means personal attacks can also be a gateway for attacks on business systems. It’s more important than ever to be vigilant online, educating your staff and making sure that you have the right cyber security protection in place to tackle potential cyber attacks.


Email phishing and malware attacks

There has been a spike in email scams due to the coronavirus, not only targeting individuals but also key industries like transport, manufacturing, insurance and even healthcare. In recent weeks, we have seen a spike in email phishing, a type of social cyber attack designed to steal data by masquerading as a trusted identity. Links that are clicked within these emails can release malicious malware onto the device, or guide people into willingly entering their sensitive information.

In a recent investigation by BBC investigation found numerous scam email campaigns, including:

  • Emails about Covid-19 tax refunds that take you to fake government websites
  • Emails from hackers pretending to represent the World Health Organisation
  • Emails from supposed doctors offering a coronavirus information document for download
  • Emails asking for donations for the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)


Website spoofing

Cyber criminals are good at creating fraudulent websites that are disguised as legitimate websites by copying the design and sometimes using a closely related website URL. Some spoofed websites are created to spread fake news or stories, but are also used to mislead the public into sharing private information, acquiring traffic through mediums such as email phishing.

Malicious criminals are aware that individuals across the globe are self-isolating at home, which involves a lot more time being spent online for work and entertainment purposes. There have been a lot of reports of fake websites which can be mistaken for streaming, communication, news and research platforms, and even fraudsters pretending to be payment services like PayPal, which will steal your account credentials and other data. Everyone needs to be mindful of the websites they use for work and personal purposes, especially in the current climate.



There have been reports of new ransomware being used to take over computer systems in relation to the Covid-19 outbreak. For example, a spoofed Wise Cleaner website recently spread a variant of ransomware called CoronaVirus. This happened because people downloaded a file disguised as a system optimisation program, which was downloaded onto home computers as well as business devices. This not only suspended the system operations by preventing you from accessing files, data and programmes, but also released a password stealing trojan. It demanded that victims make a payment in order to gain access to the files again, but in many cases, paying does not guarantee it will be restored.


Vulnerabilities in apps and programmes

Virtual meetings and other apps can expose vulnerabilities for hackers, so make sure you and all other staff members are only using trusted platforms. Employees who use a variety of different applications in their job need to be made aware of the risks, as well as having an appropriate level of protection covering their devices in case of an attempted attack. It’s down to the organisation to ensure that all programmes and endpoints are protected.


Wifi connection and remote access

Many jobs involve access to a wifi connection, or even a log in to a remote desktop system. This rapid and immense increase in home wifi connectivity has opened up unlimited opportunities for cyber attackers to hack into your network and devices, and access data if they expose any gaps in the system. Wifi within households are generally a lot less secure, as less measures are taken than at workplaces – but when we are still accessing the same files and data, this is where problems can arise.

Homeworkers should follow these steps to minimise the risk of attack:

  • Use strong and unique passwords on each account and on each device.
  • Use 2-factor authentication with multilayered protection when accessing business systems.
  • Change default passwords on home WiFi routers to prevent hackers accessing the network.
  • Regularly update all software on devices, computers and apps to keep vital security patches up to date.
  • Only use trusted software your company would typically use to share files.
  • Do not use your personal email or third party services unless you are informed otherwise by your organisation or security professional.

You can learn more about how to keep your employees and data safe whilst working remotely during the coronavirus in our related blog.


How we can help

If you would like to learn more about how to keep your organisation’s cyber systems safe during the coronavirus pandemic, we can help you through this time of uncertainty. Get in touch with our team.

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