Don’t fall victim to the Coronavirus scams and phishing e-mail attacks

It’s bad enough that societies around the world are battling the Coronavirus, now we have to battle cybercriminals scamming us with fake information about the disease! So don’t fall victim to the Coronavirus scams and phishing e-mail attacks out there, keep reading.

Yes, sadly, cybercriminals are trying to exploit our well-founded fears of the disease with phishing emails designed to steal our money, snag our personal information or infect our computers.

Sophos, a UK-based internet security company, were amongst the first to spot the unfolding scam and warn about it, while Kaspersky researchers have discovered other malicious emails out there on the subject.

But as one of the leading managed IT services providers in London and experts in how to protect your business from cyberattacks, the team at totality services really wanted to share this information with you.

Don’t fall victim to the Coronavirus scams and phishing e-mail attacks, fight them with the facts

In this blog post you’ll discover that safeguarding your business or home technology, employees and family, confidential data and, indeed, your money goes beyond technological protection; it’s all about having the correct facts to hand. So, here’s what you’ll find discussed below:

The best defence is the truth

If you were to get an e-mail from the World Health Organisation (WHO) or the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the subject of the Coronavirus, you’d probably open it, right?

Wrong. Don’t click on such an e-mail, open it or download any files associated with it. Cybercriminals have targeted users as far afield as Japan with a campaign that included malware embedded in code in Word, PDF, Docx and MP4 files but they all bore titles that alluded to Coronavirus protection tips.

Other malicious communications include phishing emails that allegedly came from the CDC. Yet more we’ve heard about included a link directing people to a scam donation page to help support government and medical research into Coronavirus.

What the threats out there have in common is that they rely upon, and benefit from, the same dangerous mixture of misinformation and panic – classic and grotesque cybercrime tactics.

So, whether you live, work or run a small to medium-sized business in London or not, below you can arm yourself with the facts.

What is Coronavirus?

The World Health Organization says the current Coronavirus that has infected thousands of people across the world is a single variant of a broader family of viruses, also called ‘Coronavirus.’

This particular strain of Coronavirus we’re discussing was first identified in the city of Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province. It has the title ‘2019-nCoV.’ And although 2019-nCoV is from the same family of Coronaviruses as SARS, which spread to 26 countries in 2002/3, it is not the same virus.

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According to scientists and medical academics in China, as cited early in February by the New York Times, the recent Coronavirus likely started in bats. The CDC describes Coronavirus symptoms as including fever, cough and a shortness of breath.

How many people have this disease?

Although the situation changes daily, as of our publication of this blog post (late February 2020), Coronavirus has spread to at least 30 countries, including Australia, Vietnam, the United States, the Philippines, Nepal, Sweden, the United Kingdom, India, and more.

Mexico currently has no reported cases—the only country in North America to avoid the virus, so far. Countries in South America, including Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and Chile, have also not reported any confirmed cases of the virus, either.

While the majority of infections are reported in China, with nearly 80,000 confirmed cases, the numbers in South Korea and Japan are climbing.

What’s more, experts believe that London could be at risk of more outbreaks because of our Capital’s popularity with visitors.

For full, daily reports on the spread of Coronavirus go to the World Health Organization’s resource page here: Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) situation reports.

How can I protect myself from coronavirus?

Coronavirus spreads from human-to-human contact, so the best protection methods involve good personal hygiene. The WHO recommends that we should all:

  • Wash our hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty.
  • Maintain social distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) between oursevles and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever.
  • Avoid touching our eyes, nose and mouth.
  • If we have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care as soon as we can. Tell your health care provider if you have travelled in an area in China where 2019-nCoV has been reported or if you have been in close contact with someone with who has travelled from China and has respiratory symptoms.
  • If you have mild respiratory symptoms and no travel history to or within China, carefully practice basic respiratory and hand hygiene, and, if possible, stay home until you are recovered.

What myths have the WHO busted about Coronavirus?

The WHO also actively dispels some current myths about Coronavirus. For example:

  • You can’t catch the virus from your pet dogs or cats.
  • Vaccines against pneumonia do not protect against coronavirus.
  • The virus cannot survive long durations on physical objects like packages and letters, so you shouldn’t be afraid of receiving them from China.
  • There’s no need to be frightened of all things Chinese, like visiting your local Chinatown district for a night out.
  • Don’t let your fear of Coronavirus drive any racist of xenophobic assumptions about people from other parts of the world, particularly the Far East.

For more help on busting the coronavirus myths, please visit the WHO Myth Busters page here, along with the WHO Q&A page here.

What you should know about Coronavirus scams and phishing?

As we said right at the very beginning of this blog post, as a leading provider of managed IT services in London and experts in how to protect your company from cyberattacks, we know that the Coronavirus online scams are largely similar to one another and feed on misinformation and fear.

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Basically, cybercriminals hope to trick you into opening e-mails, files and documents that promise information about avoiding the virus – but then often direct you to a page which asks for your email address and password to access that information – or they prey on your desire to help with a donation during a crisis like this.

Particularly look out for e-mails that purportedly come from a nondescript ‘Department of Health’ or you receive from the WHO and CDC who, let’s face it, wouldn’t usually e-mail you, would they?

Also look for any message that invites you to open a URL or link where the link itself starts with ‘HXXP’ rather than the usual HTTPS, like the example below which invites you to donate, pretending to be the “Department of Health”.

Coronavirus donation email scam

Here is another example of a phishing scam pretending to be WHO discovered by Sophos, where the URL starts with HTTP instead of HTTPS, which makes this link suspicious. Why? Any URLs that start with HTTPS indicate that they are safe because they are encrypted, this means that your information entered into that site is protected. When a URL begins with HTTP, your information is exposed to hackers, as these sites cannot provide an encrypted connection.

coronavirus phishing scam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The screenshot below is from the real World Health Organization site (who.int), which has HTTPS security. If you see a phishing email, report it here.

Real World Health Organization site

Why you should expect these Coronavirus scams and phishing to carry on

For as long as the threat from Coronavirus continues, the threat from cybercriminals using the disease to scam us is likely to continue, too.

In fact, threat actors in China were recently spotted sending out malware through e-mail and the Chinese social media platform, WeChat. Though the exact types of malware were not specified, China’s Computer Virus Emergency Response Center said the malware itself could be used to steal data or remotely control victims’ devices.

Where you can find up-to-date information about the disease

You’re not alone, we are all concerned about the threat of Coronavirus and its spread.

But the rules are simple regarding cybersecurity generally and the Coronavirus scams specifically: if you, your team, your colleagues or your family don’t recognise the sender or have any doubts at all about the authenticity of an e-mail or attachment or URL you’re sent – don’t open it, don’t click on it, just delete it.

Please spread the word (or this blog post) amongst your family, friends, colleagues and employees so that we can help to keep everyone safer online and off.

And if you’d like more continuing and up-to-the-minute information about the virus, please visit the following resources:

Ultimately, we’re passionate about helping London’s people to keep their business (and home) technology, data and users safe from all the many online threats. So if you’d like any further help with this vitally important topic, please feel free to talk to the expert, experienced and award-winning team here at Totality Services. With Five Star customer service ratings from TrustPilot, Feefo and Google we’ve become the most trusted go to IT support team for London.

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