Authorities in the United States and Europe have warned of rising malicious computer activity linked to the current COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
In a Friday warning, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said that scammers are exploiting the financial situation to rob money and sensitive details from unsuspected victims.
The assaults, the FBI states, the come in the form of fake Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emails, phishing emails asking for personal details to collect money, or urging people to donate for different causes, and offering counterfeit treatments.
“Protect yourself and do your research before clicking on links purporting to provide information on the virus; donating to a charity online or through social media; contributing to a crowdfunding campaign; purchasing products online; or giving up your personal information in order to receive money or other benefits,” the FBI says.
As a general rule, users do not select unsolicited links or open attachments from untrusted sources. In the COVID-19 scare, fake websites or apps claim to have details on the pandemic in real-time, which contribute to malware infections or stealing of confidential information.
“Be cautious of anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19. Be alert to counterfeit products such as sanitizing products and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including N95 respirator masks, goggles, full face shields, protective gowns, and gloves,” the FBI warns.
Numerous warnings released by U.S. Attorneys on the Department of Justice website have warned of continuing phishing attempts and cyber-crime operations targeting people worried with COVID-19 in an effort to hack their machines with malware.
On Sunday, DoJ revealed the first civil proceedings against the website coronavirusmedicalkit.com alleging fraud linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the Atlantic, the European authorities have noted the increase in COVID-19-themed attacks and cautioned users to take extra precautions, particularly those who are now compelled to operate from home.
“The coronavirus outbreak has spurred widespread anxiety and forced many people to work from home. Malign actors are actively exploiting these new challenging circumstances to target remote workers, businesses and individuals alike,” Europol says.
The watchdog also acknowledged that various organisations across Europe are working closely to monitor these disruptive practices, increase visibility and help defend people.
In a blog post on Friday, Microsoft offers tips about how users should ensure that they stay safe on the Internet, how they can prevent falling through phishing attempts, and how to improve their online protection overall through the use of best practices.