COVID-19: Malware, Scams, and Security Risks

COVID-19 creates more cyber risks, scams, and fraud

The effects of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID) virus created additional opportunities for criminals. It’s important to be aware of the tactics cybercriminals use and to continue taking steps to protect your personal information while you are online.

Working remotely

As many continue to work from home as isolation restrictions lift, returning to UNT System institutions will take time. If you connect via the virtual private network (VPN), this changes how your computer interacts with the Internet by removing security firewalls. Websites aren’t filtered, and your system is exposed to greater risks. Review these Cybersecurity Safeguards for Working Remotely for protecting your information, devices, and the University.

Malware, phishing, and ransomware

Security experts and government monitoring saw increasing malware, ransomware, and phishing attacks beginning as early as January 2020. COVID-19 websites and emails referencing the disease targeted visitors wanting more information, infecting desktops and other devices.

A few reminders regarding text messages, emails, and visiting websites:

  • Don’t open emails or text messages from anyone you don’t know.
  • Don’t open texts or emails from someone you know, but they’ve sent you an unexpected text or email. Call to confirm.
  • Use the same call-to-confirm about any text messages or emails you receive.
  • Suppose a text message or email preview seems odd or asks you to click a link? Don’t! Forward the email as an attachment to
  • Be cautious of websites you haven’t visited before. People seeking information found some websites mimicking COVID-19 infection maps to contain malware. Use a tool such as Google Safe Browsing site status to check a site’s safety before visiting.

COVID-19 scams and fake news

A recent increase in COVID-18 malicious messages and phone calls that use social engineering to create shock, anxiety, or fear to cause individuals to take action that is not in their best interest has been on the rise.

Types of recent scams include offers of free items (such as phones), sales for facemasks that were in short supply, COVID-19 home-test kits, donation requests for COVID-19 charities, or by instilling fear that the National Guard or Center for Disease Control is locking down the country and you must purchase emergency food supplies.

Fraudulent unemployment claims

No UNT Human Resources data breach

Malicious individuals file false unemployment claims to collect unemployment benefits. This fraudulent activity occurs across the country and is not due to a data breach at the UNT System, confirmed by UNT System IT Shared Services Information Security. UNT Human Resources monitors this situation daily and takes action when fraud is reported.

Delays in unemployment claim processing

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) fraud management has placed all UNT unemployment requests on hold at present. No unemployment benefits are paid until TWC receives confirmation from UNT Human Resources that the unemployment claim is legitimate. You may receive notification before UNT Human Resources from the Texas Workforce Commission regarding your unemployment claim.

Take action if you receive a fraudulent claim.

If you’ve received notice of an unemployment claim, but you’re working, immediately contact UNT Human Resources Records and let them know you received an unemployment claim. Please leave the information populated in the subject line of your email intact for HR. The Texas Workforce Commission has a page to report Unemployment Benefits Identity Theft which you can immediately fill out.

If a fraudulent claim is identified, Human Resources immediately notifies the Texas Workforce Commission, UNT System IT Shared Services Security, and campus police if applicable. The Texas Workforce Commission is informed that the employee is actively employed, and TWC initiates an investigation.

The Texas Workforce Commission requires a Social Security Number (SSN) to file an unemployment claim. Many fraudulent claims have incorrect Social Security Numbers. It is important to note that your identity could have been compromised along with a fraudulent unemployment claim. HR Records will notify employees by email of actions they can take. If you feel your information has been compromised, please reset your UNT network password.

Ways to protect yourself from a cybersecurity attack

  1. Never click on a link in a text message.
  2. Check for a valid news source to collaborate any information you may receive.
  3. Do not trust a call or text. Even if you recognize the number or name. This information can be faked (example: World Health Organization | Centers for Disease Control | Donation Centers)
  4. Never share your personal or financial information with anyone over the phone, text, or email.
  5. Do not respond to calls or texts from unknown numbers.
  6. Be cautious of anything that sounds too good to be true (receiving your COVID-19 stimulus check)

Helpful US Government COVID-19 scam resources

Information from the UNT System and UNT about COVID-19 and response guidelines