News article

Coronavirus: Beware of criminals exploiting outbreak

18 March 2020

NCSC says cyber criminals are using the Covid-19 outbreak to launch online attacks

The public are being urged to follow online safety advice as evidence emerges that criminals are exploiting the Coronavirus online.

Experts from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) have revealed a range of attacks being perpetrated online as cyber criminals seek to exploit COVID-19.

Techniques seen since the start of the year include bogus emails with links claiming to have important updates which, once clicked on, lead to devices being infected with malware.

These 'phishing' attempts have been seen in several countries and can lead to loss of money and sensitive data. The attacks have recently become more targeted, with greater numbers focusing on specific sectors like shipping, transport or retail to increase the likelihood of success.

The NCSC is urging businesses and the public to consult its online guidance, including how to:

In the event that someone does fall victim to a phishing attempt, they should look to report this to Action Fraud as soon as possible.

See how to protect your business against phishing.

As well as phishing attempts, cyber criminals have found many other ways to exploit people's fears. Examples include:

  • impersonation of organisations like the World Health Organisation and the US Centre for Disease Control
  • creation of fraudulent websites to sell fake antiviral equipment, request passwords and even bitcoin donations to fund a fake vaccine
  • spreading trojans and other malware to distribute infected files and document

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has also been made aware of at least one online 'Corona Virus Map' which, when visited, downloads malware to the user.

In recent days, the NCSC has taken measures to automatically discover and remove malicious sites which serve phishing and malware. These sites use COVID-19 and Coronavirus as a lure to make victims 'click the link'.

Find out how to protect your business online.