US, UK raise alarm on cybercriminals targeting work-from-home individuals

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Cybersecurity agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom have raised alarm over cybercriminals exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic to target people working from home.

In a joint advisory, the UK’s National Cyber Serurity Centre (NCSC) and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said “cybercriminals and advanced persistent threat groups are targeting individuals and organizations with a range of ransomware and malware.”

The cybersecurity agencies said they have observed criminals “scanning for known vulnerabilities in remote working tools and software, which is evidence that they are looking to take advantage of the increase in people working from home.”

This includes exploitation of the increased use of video conferencing software, where phishing emails with attachments naming legitimate video conference providers aim to trick users into downloading malicious files, the agencies said.

The DHS and NCSC also said it is expected that the frequency and severity of Covid-19 related cyber attacks will increase over the coming weeks and months.

The cybersurity agencies further said the techniques used by attackers prey on people’s appetite for information and curiosity toward the outbreak, with phishing emails and SMS messages using Covid-19 as a lure to trick people into revealing credentials or downloading malicious software.

Phishing attempts often come from what appears to be a trustworthy sender, such as the ‘World Health Organisation” or with a subject line such as “2019-nCov: Coronavirus outbreak in your city (Emergency).”

The advisory said examples of scams include emails containing malware which appear to have come from the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), and others which claim to offer thermometers and face masks to fight the pandemic.

The cyberseurity agencies also said they have detected cyber criminals scanning for vulnerabilities in software and remote working tools as more people work from home during the pandemic.

“Malicious cyber actors are adjusting their tactics to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic, and the NCSC is working round the clock with its partners to respond,” said Paul Chichester, director of operations at the NCSC.

“Our advice to the public and organizations is to remain vigilant and follow our guidance, and to only use trusted sources of information on the virus such as UK Government, Public Health England or NHS websites,” the official added.

The agencies said to date, they are not seeing overall levels of cyber crime increase, but they are seeing a growing use of Covid-19 related themes by malicious cyber actors.

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