3 Ways Scammers Are exploiting Coronavirus Fears 1 2221

Types of Scams

From malware-laden emails to fake donations, these are some of the most common cons you should watch out for amid this public health crisis

It’s beyond reasonable doubt that the COVID-19 disease has transformed itself into a pandemic that has thrown the world into a tailspin. Panic is palpable than ever before, and as a result, has led to market closures, travel bans, lockdowns, and panic buying.

Unfortunately, cybercriminals are taking advantage of this chaotic situation to defraud the vulnerable. With more than 60,000 deaths witnessed across the globe due to the virus, fraudsters are finding an opportune moment for launching their fraudulent campaigns, usually disguised as humanitarian interventions.

Therefore, the big question is, how do you sniff potential scammers a mile away? Fret not, in this post, we share some of the common despicable tactics (as identified by the ESET research team) that are currently being used by scammers to defraud innocent souls.

  1. Malicious News

To appear as convincing as possible, the current retinue of scammers have resorted to impersonating authoritative sources, especially those concerned with disseminating news regarding the virus. Such include the world health organization (WHO) among many other firms.

As such, they will send you emails purporting to come from these sources that contain “vital information” regarding the disease to hoodwink you into clicking on their malicious links. Usually, such links may steal your personal information, install malware on your machine, or try to capture your password and login credentials.

Nevertheless, the good thing is that most of these organizations are aware of such fraudulent activities. And in a bid to end them, have come to the open regarding the issue. For instance, the WHO, on its website, offers advice on how it communicates and also elaborates on what to expect from their official emails.

As an example, one of the significant points reads:

“Make sure the sender has an email address such as ‘person@who.int’. If there is anything other than ‘who.int’ after the ‘@’ symbol, this sender is not from WHO. WHO does not send emails from addresses ending in ‘@who.com’, ‘@who.org,’ or ‘@who-safety.org,’ for example.”

What’s more, the organization advises that all its web content starts with https://www.who.int/ only, no other domain is used.  Therefore, be sure to check on the URL of the email sent to you before clicking on it. If in doubt, input the address directly onto your browser to get the results. Most importantly, the WHO cannot start sending you emails without your subscription or prompt. 

On the other hand, if you wanted the real news regarding the pandemic, you can visit the dedicated WHO site or head to your national health care institution’s website. For instance, the National Health Service if you are a United Kingdom resident or Center for Disease Control and Prevention if you live in the US.

Alternatively, you can get real information from your usual trusted sources, but not from unsolicited emails.

In another case (as shown in the image below), the fraudsters are trying to impersonate the wall street journal by establishing a visually similar site (phishing site).

From the image, you can notice that the URL starts with ‘worldstreet’ while the wording on the webpage indicates ‘world street,’ which is a red flag.

By creating such a site, they trick people into believing that they are the real wall street journal, therefore gain some revenue from the advertisements placed there. Though the site may not track your credentials, the money generated goes to the wrong hands.

2. Appeal for donation

In another attempt to outsmart the would-be victims, cybercriminals are now packaging themselves as “genuine souls” out there to help in the war against the virus.  For instance, in a recent scam, fraudsters were attempting to persuade their audience to contribute towards the development of a vaccine for children in China.

An interesting fact about this example is that the perpetrators are riding on the popularity of an existing campaign by re-purposing its content with Coronavirus details. In another 2019 publication, we talked about how criminals were threatening their victims in an attempt to extort money from them.

Often, such corona themed scams will request you to send your donations in the form of bitcoins to a particular fraudster’s wallet. Though the trick might work on a few people, if done on a global scale can rake in colossal sums of money, which makes it attractive to the criminals.

3. Dubious purchases

The increasing demand for particular products such as face masks and hand sanitizers due to the pandemic has resulted in their short supply. Naturally, this has attracted fraudsters who, according to Sky News, have conned around £800,000 (US$1 million) from United Kingdom residents within February alone.

In an attempt to steal your money, the fraudsters will send you spam emails purporting to help you secure face masks. In case you unwittingly click on the provided links, your financial and personal credentials will be revealed to the fraudsters.

Therefore, you should always be on the lookout for such claims, and only purchase such items from a trusted dealer.

Final thoughts

These are examples of a few tactics currently being used by cybercriminals in their attempts of defrauding people their hard-earned money as a result of the current confusion brought about the COVID-19 stalemate.

Thus, as a business or individual, you need to remain vigilant regarding such antics, not only during such emergencies but also during other times.

As a way of minimizing your chances of falling victim to such schemes, you can always practice some of the following basics:

  1. Be worrisome of emails containing alarming messages regarding the pandemic and the need for immediate action; for instance, ordering for a vaccine or cure via the provided links.
  2. Avoid replying to unknown messages requiring your credentials; for example, those needing your bank details and identification number, among other sensitive information.
  3. Be proactive at identifying potential crowd-funding or fraudulent campaigns.
  4. Utilize well-known multi-layered security software, which includes protection against phishing.

More Importantly, ESET has been here for you for over 30 years. We want to assure you that we will be here to protect your online activities during these uncertain times, too.

Protect yourself from threats to your security online with an extended trial of our award-winning software.

Try our extended 90-days trial for free.

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Secure Videoconferencing: The Basics 0 860

Woman working at home on laptop

With COVID-19 concerns canceling face-to-face meetings, be aware of the security risks of videoconferencing and how to easily overcome them

As a way of controlling the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, several countries have been forced to impose a lockdown on its citizens bringing normal operations to a near stand-still. Consequently, a considerable percentage of the working population has turned to remote working, a chunk of it for the first time.

This has spiked up the demand for video conferencing services, chat systems, and online collaboration tools to serve the increasing number of students, employees, and teachers, among other experts working from home.

By 11th March 2020, Kentik―a San Francisco network operator— had achieved a 200% increase in video traffic within the provided working hours in Asia and North America. Even before the start of the official lockdown in California.

In the same vein, the UK Prime Minister chaired a cabinet meeting via zoom, which communicated the government’s appeal for social distancing through the use of video conferencing. His actions, however, brought about several questions regarding the security of the communication.

But with a quick rejoinder, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre pointed out that such communications shouldn’t cause any worries if they are below particular classifications. Accordingly, companies have developed confidence in the technology; therefore, are utilizing it to communicate with their remote workers.

Nevertheless, as an employee (or typical user), you need to understand the technology’s built-in security options, as well as control features before using it. Here we provide you with some primary considerations. Let’s dig in!

Your immediate surroundings

For you to realize a smooth and quality video conferencing experience, it is essential to cordon off your working space to prevent in kind of interruptions that might occur while in session; for instance, from your kids, better half, or even pets.

Besides, ensure that your working area is devoid of any sensitive or confidential information/material that can be captured by the camera.

Limit access

As you may be aware, a lot of video conferencing platforms allow the creation of multiple user groups to enable the providence of internet domain according to specific criteria; for instance, the use of company email address to join a video call.

Or offer access to a limited number of people whose email addresses have been invited or scheduled for a call.

As such, when creating a meeting, you can enable the set a meeting password option that creates a randomly generated code for your invitees to input before joining a conversation. Similarly, you can authenticate those using phones by the use of a numerical password. However, avoid embedding the password in the meeting link.

As an organizer, you can hold your participants in a “waiting room,” as you approve them one by one, which gives you full control over whom to allow or deny access. In case you have a large conference, you can delegate such duties to your trusted attendees.

File transfers and communication over the net

As a rule of thumb, always ensure that your end-to-end communication is encrypted. Do not assume that this option is the default for video calls since a few services may require you to request encryption.

If the third-party endpoint client software is permitted, ensure it abides by the requirements of the end-to-end encryption.

What’s more, consider limiting the types of documents you can send across the net; for instance, avoid transferring executable files.

Manage the attendees, as well as the engagement process

Often, your attendees will be distracted by notifications, pop-ups, and emails, among other things, when attending your conference calls. Therefore, as a host, you can request notification from your service provider if your conferencing client isn’t the primary or active window (depending on your platform). For instance, if you are a tutor, you can use this feature to get the attention of all your students.

You can also monitor those who joined the call by downloading the attendee list at the end of the call. Or request attendees to register before being connected.

Limit screen sharing capabilities

As the host, the sole responsibility of controlling screen sharing remains only yours, unless you delegate it to someone else that you trust. This eliminates any chances of an individual sharing content by mistake.

Importantly, only share the required application rather than the whole desktop when screen sharing. This is informed by the fact; even the name of a file or Icon can divulge sensitive company information.

Final thoughts

To ensure the security of your company communications, take time to consider all the available options security settings on your video conferencing system (or one you intend to use) settings. Importantly, take a look at the privacy policy of the service you intend to use to prevent the selling, sharing, collection, or re-use of your data.

In case you require more advice and endpoint client software for your video conferencing needs, then ESET has been here for you for over 30 years. We want to assure you that we will be here to protect your online activities during these uncertain times, too.

Protect yourself from threats to your security online with an extended trial of our award-winning software.

Try our extended 90-day trial for free.

Coronavirus con artists continue to thrive 0 809

Man working on laptop

The scam machine shows no signs of slowing down, as fraudsters continue to dispense bogus health advice, peddle fake testing kits and issue malware-laced purchase orders

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate, more companies are now shifting to remote work as a way of containing the spread of the disease. Similarly, lockdowns and travel bans, among other stringent measures, have become the order of the day across several nations. And to worsen the situation, there is a massive shortage of the required medical kits.

Such a crisis provides fraudsters undue advantage over a vulnerable lot that is financially destabilized, as well as emotionally drained as a result of the pandemic. 

In this case, you would likely receive fake updates regarding the pandemic, as well as non-existent offers for personal protective equipment, among others. Likewise, if you’re a business, you would certainly receive faux purchase orders and payment information.

Fortunately, as a follow up to our previous article about the ways scammers are exploiting coronavirus fears, we provide you with a few examples of the new campaigns aimed at stealing your money or personal information. To enable you to keep your guard up. Shall we?

Fake news/information

As the virus continues to escalate, more people are currently searching for practical information on how they can protect themselves. As a result, scammers have conveniently positioned themselves as the true COVID-19 information “crusaders” by impersonating well-known health organizations, such as the World health organization.

Don’t act surprised if you receive an email (containing an attachment) supposedly coming from a reputable health organization offering you “vital information” on how you can protect yourself from the disease.

For instance, our research team identified one such file containing a Trojan designed to steal personal credentials.

Apart from the WHO, fraudsters are also impersonating the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Accordingly, the FBI has given a warning about scummy emails mainly riddled with malware-infested attachments and links purporting to originate from the CDC.

 To reduce the number of people falling for such schemes, the WHO shares examples of its official email addresses and methods of communication on its website.

Urgent purchase orders and late payments

Owing to the increased pressure from governments to reduce the spread of the virus, Companies, as well as factories, have been forced to streamline their operations according to the current situation. As an example, companies to integrate work from home modules, while factories to either increase or reduce their production capacities depending on their products.

Such erratic changes have brought about a climate of uncertainty that offers fraudsters a thriving environment.

In this case, as a factory owner or executive, be on the lookout for “urgent purchase orders” from “company representatives.” Since this fake orders come from scammers who want to make a kill out of your desperation of making some revenue before things go south.

Sadly, if you download such “urgent orders” (usually in attachments), your PC will be installed with malicious code designed to steal your details.

Below is an excellent example of such an “urgent order”:

Similarly, you would receive a “proof of payment” for you to take care of the order. However, like the last example above, instead of receiving a bank statement, the attached document contains a Trojan injector.

High demand products

A massive increase in demand compounded with an inadequate supply for essential protective items, such face masks has created another avenue for scams.

A typical example of such a scam involves a fraudulent site that is offering “OxyBreath Pro” face masks at a reduced price. These can lure you since there is a shortage of masks, and what is available is highly-priced.

However, if you click on the provided links, you’ll be at risk of exposing your sensitive personal information to the scammers.

Bogus testing gear

The unavailability or short supply of medical kits for testing folks for the virus has also attracted fraudsters in droves.

For instance, the existent low supply of masks, respirators, and hand sanitizers, among other necessities, has prompted scammers to impersonate medical officials.  So that, they can provide non-existent or fake COVID-19 test kits, as well as illegitimate “corona cures.”

As an illustration, more than 2000, links associated with fake coronavirus products have already been identified. Similarly, law enforcement bureaus alongside other relevant bodies have been able to seize US$ 13 million worth of potentially hazardous pharmaceuticals.

To contain these despicable actions, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings that it hasn’t allowed the sale or purchase of coronavirus self-testing kits; therefore, it is currently bursting such sellers.

Final thoughts

In a wrap, what we have shared is a representative of the many current fraudulent campaigns doing rounds in our media spaces due to the prevailing situation.

Thus, it is critical to maintaining high alertness to avoid falling victim to both the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the ensuing scam epidemic escalating through the internet. To keep yourself safe from the scams, you can practice the following basics:

  1. Avoid downloading files or clicking on links from unknown sources
  2. Never fall for unrealistic offers or order goods from unverified suppliers. You may also make a point of checking out the purported vendor’s reviews
  3. Invest in an excellent endpoint solution which can shield you from phishing attacks, as well as other forms of scams
  4. If an email suggests coming from a reputable organization, double-check with the firm’s website to confirm its authenticity

If you require consultation, as well as endpoint solutions for your cybersecurity needs, then ESET has been here for you for over 30 years. We want to assure you that we will be here to protect your online activities during these uncertain times, too.

Protect yourself from threats to your security online with an extended trial of our award-winning software.

Try our extended 90-day trial for free.