Cyber criminals pounce on panic over coronavirus



JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) AS the continent grapples with the fatal coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak that has claimed thousands of lives across the globe, behind the scenes, cyber criminals are stepping up their devious craft and presenting a glut of challenges to an already panicky world.

The cyber crooks are largely exploiting the general anxiety about the pandemic as well as changes to enterprise working practices, with the latter emanating from authorities encouraging some professionals to work from as part of measures to curb the spread of the virus.

A number of African countries, a high number of them in the Southern African region, have imposed the lockdowns, mostly for a minimum of three weeks, although South Africa has extended the restrictions by a fortnight until the end of April.

KnowBe4, a security awareness training and simulated phishing platform, has established a 600 percent increase in phishing email attacks related to COVID-19 in the first quarter of this year.

“It is no surprise that we are seeing an explosion of phishing attacks related to the coronavirus because people are actively seeking more information about it,” said Stu Sjouwerman, Chief Executive Officer of KnowBe4.

“The bad guys are opportunists and they will use every chance they get to take advantage of people’s heightened emotions during crisis situations such as this one by trying to entice them to click on a malicious link or download an attachment laced with malware,” Sjouwerman said.

He appealed to end users of mobile users to be vigilant against cyber attacks during the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and measures placed by government to curtail the pandemic.

Check Point, a provider of software products for IT security, has confirmed seeing roughly 2 600 coronavirus-related cyber attacks per day. It has reported that over 30 100 new coronavirus-related domains have been registered in last fortnight alone.

More than 51 000 related domains have been registered since start of COVID-19 pandemic.

The virus was first detected in China at the end of 2019.

Pankaj Bhula, Check Point’s regional director for Africa, said cyber-criminals would always seek to capitalise on the latest trends in an attempt to boost the success rates of attacks.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a perfect storm of a global news event together with dramatic changes in working practices and the technologies used by organisations,” Bhula said.

“This has meant a significant increase in the attack surface of many organisations, which is compromising their security postures,” the executive added.

Bhula urged organisations to protect themselves with a holistic, end-to-end security architecture to ensure security and business continuity in the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation.

There had been 1,925 million cases of COVID-19 and 120 000 deaths globally at the beginning of this week.

– CAJ News

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