COVID-19: How to stay safe from cybercriminals exploiting the pandemic

Major disasters are systematically exploited by cybercriminals for financial or espionage purposes. The phenomenon is not new, whether it is the 2004 Tsunami in Asia or the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti. The COVID-19 is no exception to the rule, the multiplication of misinformation and the increase in domain names linked to the coronavirus are strong indications of this. 

There have been countless phishing attempts to bait the virus. This form of scam consists of creating a message with an official appearance (logo of an International or Non-Governmental Organization), including a malicious link or a fake file that the recipient will be prompted to follow or download and, finally, sending this message to the greatest number of people through several channels such as E-Mail, Messenger, WhatsApp and so on. 

Why do cybercriminals do it ?

Criminals could be working to steal sensitive information such as banking data via a link to a fake site that imitates that of a bank.

Another case is by downloading a software called ransomware, the device’s data is taken hostage -by encryption- and a payment of a ransom is requested to obtain decryption.

Also, worth noting is the development of merchant sites offering the sale of out of stock products, such as masks or hydroalcoholic gel, without ever making the delivery. Beyond the disappointment of having paid for a purchase that will never be delivered, users expose themselves to the fraudulent use of  their bank details.

How you can stay safe while online at home

There are some relatively simple steps that the users can take to enhance the security of a home computer.

  • As a first step in preventing computer piracy, make sure that all your software is up to date.
  • Another step any home user can take is to install a firewall. The purpose of the firewall is to prevent any unauthorized contact or entry to the system. However, a firewall does not remove items that are already on the computer or the network. Anti-virus software is also required to deal with malicious code that can pass through the firewall undetected.
  • Do not click on unsolicited links within emails or any other platforms of communications as they are most likely illicit in nature. If you are unsure, verify with the source before using the provided link.

How to keep your company or business safe online

  • Using data encryption gives your business an advantage when your data fall into the wrong hands.
  • Try to use anti-malware solutions and protection methods for your corporate networks by effective firewalls.
  • Keep your employees updated on the latest developments in cyberspace, so that they can easily contribute to cyber-risk reduction.
  • Ensure you have secure and sophisticated hardware, protected by a password and backed up by multi-factor authentication.
  • Backup data in an effective manner.

Let's all stay home safe and connected! 

For More Information:

Advice from UNODC’s Chief of Cybercrime & Anti-Money Laundering, Neil Walsh

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) - UNODC updates

Visit World Health Organization - COVID 19 updated page to stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19 and ways to stay safe.