Cybersecurity Incidents Related to COVID-19

Best Practices : Article

It is said that a crisis brings out the best in people. Unfortunately, the opposite can also be true as criminals exploit the fear, curiosity, and good-will of others.

We at Virtual want to ensure that our clients and partners are aware of the cybersecurity threats that have become more prevalent during these already trying times:

  1. Phishing: There has been an exponential increase in phishing campaigns: emails appearing to be from reputable sources with the goal of acquiring personal information from the recipient. The public’s desire and need for closure updates, relief contributions, and more have been targeted, and phishing emails are being carefully tailored to manipulate recipients.
    Steps to help identify phishing emails:

    • Carefully review and confirm each email address: Be sure to look carefully at the name AND domain of each email you open. Are letters replaced with numbers or vice-versa to trick the eye and appear as a legitimate domain? Most e-mail clients allow you to hover or right-click on the sender to view details. Confirm the reply address matches the person or organization who sent it.
    • Hover over links before clicking: Hovering over (not clicking) links in an email will display the true URL of the link. Masking malicious links with creative hyperlink names is common and can be identified by checking before clicking. Many will redirect to familiar-looking pages prompting for credentials or installing malware. Your credentials will not work, however, if entered, it will be recorded by a third party.
    • When in doubt: Delete the email or, if you know the sender, check-in with a phone call or instant message to confirm they sent it. Their account could be compromised and not know it!
  2. Malware: Thousands of new domains are being registered with published web sites to provide “resources” for this crisis. Outbreak maps and other “tools” are seemingly available in abundance and appear to have helpful information. Malicious versions of these sites can inject malware onto user devices. Be sure to seek information only from trusted sources such as the CDC or WHO sites.
  3. Remote Access: Working remotely can increase vulnerability when staff are working outside of an organizations’ firewall.
    Here are a few easy ways to minimize possible entry points:

    • Enable Multifactor Authentication (MFA) on as many applications as possible. Most hosting providers offer this functionality and add an extra authentication step when accessing resources. If your credentials are obtained through a phishing campaign, an implemented MFA method will prohibit access.
    • Make sure that your home WiFi network is encrypted and has a complex password consisting of numbers, letters, and special characters.
    • Check for and apply operating system and anti-virus updates frequently. Minimize access to personal accounts from your work machine.
    • Finally, as more individuals work from home, Facebook is filled with photos of kids using Mom or Dad’s computer for a few minutes. Be mindful that an errant click by a user of your computer can compromise your personal AND organization’s network. Better to disappoint the wandering hands on your keyboard than open your organization up to cyber-attack.

    Some resources worth reading:
    Centers for Disease Control

    World Health Organization

    Secret Service COVID-19 Phishing Alert

    ZDNet COVID-19 Scams and Malware


Justin Montville is the Senior Director of Infrastructure & Operations Information Technology at Virtual, Inc.

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