Impact of COVID-19 on Cybersecurity – Phishing Attacks have Increased Worldwide


What is Phishing?

 Phishing is one of the most common and easiest of all cybercrimes. One of the biggest merits of phishing is that the end result of a successful phishing attack will result in the attacker getting all personal details – enough for them to access all the personal and work accounts of the target. 

  The most familiar phishing attack is carried out through emails or social media with some sort of suspicious offer, which can easily attract people towards accepting the offers or handing over passwords or OTPs. The end result is usually a financial loss. 

 Other troubles come when we are encouraged to download some files or documents which may actually contain viruses or malware. 

The rise in ransomware and cybercrimes

The ongoing period of the Covid 19 pandemic has served as a base for the rise in cybercrimes and ransomware. Protecting yourself, your loved ones, and also your organizations from such a threat is an additional challenge for us nowadays. 

We get easily bewitched by Covid 19 themed lures set by such groups and can end up in serious trouble. The most common lures are based on commodities like vaccines, masks, sanitisers, etc., and also in the form of financial scams like govt. assistance or free downloads of technological solutions. 

The better option for us to keep in check with these kinds of scams is to educate ourselves and others about the lures and how it works. Awareness programs help us a lot to know about this stuff. The present atmosphere is online work and all is new to us. So, until we get a hang of the pros and cons of this atmosphere, it is better to stay on alert about your responses to such lures. 

Recent surveys conducted suggest that due to the rise in crime opportunities in the pandemic season, cybercrimes had gone up to 220% of pre-Covid 19 cyber-crimes.

Exploiting our fear through phishing

It is seen in studies that phishing targets more people amid some sort of disaster or pandemic spread. Compared to normal times, the confusion and desperation of people due to fear is several times higher during an outbreak or a calamity. The attackers make use of this fear to get through our defences against phishing. 

The Ebola virus shook the world more than usual. The death rate and spread cause major panic worldwide. It was found out that during this short period, more than 300,000 spam mails and 800,000 scam-related emails were sent worldwide targeting the fear-fed society. 

Another such incident was during the recent Australian Bushfire. It attracted the worldwide attention of both donors and attackers. The lure was designed in such a way that the attackers portrayed themselves as a govt. organization or a non-profit community accepting donations and help from the worldwide community. The result was an increase in cybercrimes and people getting robbed of their money.

The same situation from phishing emails and fraud cases were reported during other natural disasters that occurred around the globe like flooding in north India, Nipah virus outbreak in Bangladesh and South India, tornado devastation in the USA, etc. 

The same lure has been modified and is used now in the Covid 19 pandemic season by cyber attackers. Fear and lack of knowledge have been used as a weapon by these people. Financial support, vaccines, sudden recovery medicines – all these topics are used to lure in the unsuspecting.

From all these we can understand one simple fact – the main target of attackers are usually inexperienced internet users or financially unstable family members affected by the fear of getting into financial trouble. 

Self-awareness and prevention 

The best measure is not to donate or fall for any kind of mail or offers without thorough verification. There is no shame in asking others about something we are not familiar with. A second thought before clicking on unwanted links or emails is also a good method to increase self-awareness. 

Another notable fact is that there is a major increase in real-time phishing proxies over the last 2 years. An increase in RTPPs means an increase in fraudulent login attempts. The main target is somehow being set to people who are not so familiar with new technology and news related to scammers and phishing. 

We can conclude by saying that the increased use of online services during the pandemic period has increased the opportunities for attackers. Mixed with society’s fear, the lures are working better than ever, and more and more cases are being reported globally every single day because of this. A major collaboration among individuals in educating and finding new and effective anti-phishing methods is a key requirement today. 

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