The whole world’s prime focus now is on the pandemic coronavirus with news and posts about the virus being updated every minute across the world. With the widespread use of digital media and Internet, people now have the luxury to stay updated as well as share news instantly. However, it is also true that the virus has become a keyword to lure users and expose them to fraudulent digital threats. The official site of World Health Organisation (WHO) warns that hackers and cyber scammers are taking advantage of COVID-19 pandemic by sending fraudulent email and WhatsApp messages that attempt to trick you into clicking on malicious links or opening attachments.
Ashok Gurung, Business Development Manager and Information System Auditor at Cryptogen Nepal, a cyber security company shares, “People want to keep themselves updated through news portals. Hackers, on the other hand, are always looking for trending and breaking news. This time, headlines related to the virus have become one of the easy methods for them to lure users and phish them.”
As per him, hackers can also build malicious websites to show latest updates on the virus with beautiful cosmetics that people can fall victim to.
Gurung informs that some organisations make dashboards to keep a track of COVID-19, which hackers can misuse to inject malware into computers or mobile phones. He says, “Some of such cases indicate that hackers are using this map to steal information of users including user name, password, credit card number and other information stored in the browser.”He terms the pandemic situation as ‘honeypot’ for hackers as it takes minimal effort to trap people easily.
“These days phishing attempts have gone up three times, while most of the common Internet platforms that are most vulnerable are social media sites, news portals, online banking and online payment gateway applications, government
websites,” he informs.
Chiranjibi Adhikari, Executive Director at One Cover shares, “Facebook, Messenger, Whatsapp, Viber and Linkedin are used by cyber criminals to phish and scam users. One should be on the lookout for suspicious images and video links containing malware, which if clicked on, is resent automatically to other users as well.”
Warning against browsing new websites and URLs sent by people over email or social media instant messages that are beautifully designed, have interesting headlines, Gurung warns, “We should only follow legitimate and authentic news portals and websites for updates, check the complete URL before opening them. One should not go to any link/site mentioned in emails or messages even if it is sent by people one knows, should not download applications from unknown sites, keep security options enabled in devices, and have a good endpoint protection software (anti-virus) installed, updated and working against viruses and malwares.” Adhikari adds, “The first defence against online scammers and hackers is to be aware about it. Users should be extra careful while going through things online as becoming digitally secure is also important during these pressing times.”