Hackers Use Coronavirus Fears to Manipulate Computer Users

by Jones David

In December of 2020, the Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) struck Wuhan, China. In less than two months, the outbreak affected over 71,000 people across 28 countries, and the death toll reached up to 1,115. The scary part—it’s still not over and the number of those infected continues to grow.

The earliest discovery of Coronaviruses (CoV) dates back to the 1960s, which primarily affected mammals and birds, causing respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. The symptoms that start with a common cold quickly spread into the lower respiratory system if left untreated, leading to diseases like pneumonia. In recent years, there has been an increased occurrence of zoonotic coronaviruses causing human outbreaks, with the major instances being SARS-CoV in 2003, MERS in 2012, and now the of 2020-nCoV.

As if the tragedy of the outbreak itself weren’t enough, cybercriminals are leveraging this sensational current affair to spread malicious viruses in the guise of Coronavirus-related information or news updates, attracting a high click-rate from the intimidated masses.

How Does The New Coronavirus Relate to Cyberattack Work?

Reportedly orchestrated by the hacker group TA542, who was responsible for creating the banking Trojan attack known as Emotet, the cyber attacks are conducted by circulating Coronavirus-related content through the internet in the form of document attachments, emails, and links.

For an end-user, it starts with a normal-looking email or a randomly forwarded message that claims to contain new updates and information about the case. Usually, there is a document attachment or link in the message. If you click on it, it may successfully download malware into your system, which might include ransomware, data-breaching malware, crypto-mining malware, and browser details, including passwords and other sensitive data. According to sources of Cybersecurity Insiders, there may be at least ten such unique attacks, identified to be Coronavirus-themed content, carrying harmful malware.

Warning Signs That You’ve Been Hacked

For malicious cyberattacks, camouflage and patience are the main leverage. With a ferocious malware tucked into heavily used platforms or perhaps somewhere in the architecture of vital software and systems, its job is to lurk and wait for the prey. It may be seemingly impossible to identify cyber-attacks in its dormant state. But luckily, a cyber attack cannot go unnoticed for long, as the system or device will end up showing off warning signs of a threat once it springs into action. Some of the common signs include:

  • System Malfunctions – Take a hint from the unexpected shutting-down and restarting of your computer, or mobile device, strange anti-virus warning messages or the automatic downloading of unknown software.
  • Browser-Based Malfunctions – Malware from an unauthorized website or link can penetrate your system, bypassing the ad-blocking settings. When they do, you may get an influx of pop-ups, get new toolbars installed out of nowhere, or even get involuntarily redirected to unknown websites. If left untreated, such viruses can weaken your device and even infest other devices that may connect to it via Bluetooth or USB cable.
  • Mouse Pointer Moving On Its Own – Though it is a widespread issue that can be caused by a loose mouse jack or faulty Bluetooth pairing, a random mouse pointer movement might have a darker cause. When it is due to a malicious act, the mouse acts like a person opening your files and settings. Sometimes, that is precisely what’s happening.
  • Unexplained Fund Deductions From Your Bank – Though such incidents are infrequent, given that the financial sector and most banks use the world’s most potent cybersecurity infrastructure, there is still a possibility. New customers of banks or those new to online banking might be more vulnerable, having leaked valuable information unknowingly while accustoming themselves to the technicalities.
  • Messages And Emails Sent From Your Account, Without Your Knowledge – Whether it is social media accounts, emails, or text messages, such incidents are the quickest to identify. What happens is, a hacker that managed to get into your account sends messages to your contacts to get into theirs, chancing on the fact that people who trust you are willing to click on any link sent by you.

How To Protect Your Devices And Infrastructure Against Future Attacks

Capitalizing on sensational news and current affairs that influence fear and panic, is, unfortunately, one of the primary tactics of security hacking. Luckily, there are good cybersecurity technologies and emergency response management systems that can be affordable for the general public and also yield long term protection. Prevention is better and cheaper than a cure. Here are some ways to safeguard yourself from cyber malice.

  • Think twice before clicking on links or opening files sent from sources you don’t recognize or trust
  • Turn off wireless connectivity of your devices, such as the Bluetooth, location tracker, or GPS when you don’t need them, especially at public places like train stations, cafes, or the campus.
  • Rely on trustworthy sources to download apps, music or movies
  • Deactivate third-party permissions on the device, like social media permissions, data backup, and password saving.

A Threat Is Still Better Than An Attack

The advantage you have with a threat is that it is still controllable. Cybercriminals will grow more ruthless with the advancements of cybersecurity, as both evolve daily. But know this that cyber-attacks need an anchor to channel their power, so be extra cautious about emails, links, and content relating to the latest news and current events.

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