There has been a 300 percent increase in cybercrime since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — originating mostly from countries “solely” interested in information on the virus — and the FBI expects another surge as businesses tentatively start to reopen.
“The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has received between 3,000 and 4,000 cybersecurity complaints each day, a major jump from prior COVID-19 when about 1,000 complaints were received daily,” reported Tonya Ugoretz, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division.
As the virus began to truly take hold mid-March and more and more people started working from home, hackers took advantage of the gross increase of online presence, one example being the hacking and pawning off personal Zoom accounts by hackers to “zoom bomb” calls and pester users.
But other instances of cybercrime are not as mischievous as they are concerning.
The United Kingdom airline EasyJet, for example, experienced a significant data breach that resulted in the loss of information on more than nine million customers, which included the credit card details of about 2,000 customers, Forbes reported.
Scams exploiting increased anxieties related to the pandemic are also becoming more prominent, such as unemployment scams and health scams claiming to be from the Center for Disease Control.
Nearly 18 percent of computers in The Netherlands have been “subject to cyber attacks” so far in 2020, reports WorldAtlas.
Habitually, cybercriminals tend to be opportunistic about hectic or uncertain times.
“We’ve seen spikes in cybercrime during Olympic Games or natural disasters,” said Marc Rogers, executive director of cybersecurity at Okta, a software company.
“Countries have a very high interest in information on the virus… such as information on the vaccine,” Ugoretz continued. “We have certainly seen reconnaissance activity… especially those who have identified themselves as working on COVID research.”
To be doubtful about the idea that cybercriminals are purely interested in information on the virus solely for the good of humankind would be fair.
There has been evidence of hackers using the pandemic opportunistically, such as in Russia, where there has been a grand history of spreading misinformation to paint the U.S. in particular in a bad light during the Swine Flu and Ebola outbreaks, for instance.
SecurityMagazine urges internet users to “exercise caution, check links before clicking, avoid forwarding suspicious emails, using a variety of passwords,” and trusting reliable sources such as the CDC website.
This summary was prepared by TCR news intern Sarah Rose George.