More than 80% of cyberthreats involve COVID-19

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Wednesday, 01 April, 2020

More than 80% of cyberthreats involve COVID-19

Cybercriminals have wasted no time capitalising on the COVID-19 pandemic, with recent research from Proofpoint suggesting that over 80% of email-based threats are COVID-19 related.

The company's research team, which has been tracking malicious activity associated with the outbreak since late January, has to date uncovered over 500,000 messages, 300,000 malicious URLs and 200,000 malicious attachments with COVID-19 themes.

These attacks, spread out across more than 140 attack campaigns and counting, are global in scope and involve nearly every type of attack type, including business email compromise, credential phishing, malware and spam email campaigns.

Notable recent examples include a credential phishing campaign targeting retail companies in the US with a message claiming an unnamed staff member has been infected by the virus, as well as campaign targeting energy, construction and telecoms companies with a subject line indicating the target's neighbour has tested positive for the disease.

A more sophisticated attack is spoofing the real address of the head of the World Health Organization in an email claiming that a 'total control' method for COVID-19 has been discovered.

Another notable example is a credential phishing attack targeting Netherlands-based manufacturing, technology and industrial companies, which includes a message claiming that a major bank from the country is introducing a new 'antibacterial debit card' and inviting recipients to apply for this purported card.

These cases show that the focus of attackers is shifting as public concerns around COVID-19 also shift, Proofpoint said.

Early campaigns focused on concerns around the impact of COVID-19 on shipping and manufacturing. Current campaigns are focused on concerns around treatments and cures; as more employees are asked to work from home during the crisis, Proofpoint predicts that these themes will soon be incorporated into the social engineering attacks.

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