Coronavirus-themed websites on the rise, security firm warns

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Israel-based security firm Check Point said cyber-criminals are quickly taking advantage of the panic caused by Covid-19 for their own gain.

The company said its Global Threat Index for January 2020 showed cyber-criminals are exploiting interest in the global epidemic to spread malicious activity, with several spam campaigns relating to the outbreak of the virus.

Since January 2020, based on Check Point Threat Intelligence, there have been over 4,000 coronavirus-related domains registered globally.

Out of these websites, 3% were found to be malicious and an additional 5% are suspicious. Coronavirus- related domains are 50% more likely to be malicious than other domains registered at the same period, and also higher than recent seasonal themes such as Valentine’s day.

Many of these domains will probably be used for phishing attempts. Check Point said many websites known to be related to malicious activities lure their victims to their websites with discussions around the virus, as well as from scam websites that claim to sell face masks, vaccines, and home tests that can detect the virus.

In addition, a widespread targeted coronavirus themed phishing campaign was recently spotted targeting Italian organizations, hitting over 10% of all organizations in Italy with the aim of exploiting concerns over the growing cluster of infections in the country.

So, how can you avoid falling victim to these scam attempts? Check Point is recommending these steps for safe online behavior:

  • Be cautious with emails and files received from unknown senders, especially if they prompt for a certain action you would not usually do.
  • Ensure you are ordering goods from an authentic source. One way to do this is NOT to click on promotional links in emails, and instead Google your desired retailer and click the link from the Google results page.
  • Beware of “special” offers. “An exclusive cure for Coronavirus for $150” is usually not a reliable or trustworthy purchase opportunity but most likely fraud. At this point of time there is no cure for the coronavirus and even if there was, it definitely would not be offered to you via an email.
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