COVID-19: Malware, Scams, and Security Risks

The effects of the COVID-19 virus on individuals has created an opportunity for cybercriminals. It is important to be vigilant with online interactions, reviewing information or news, and protecting your personal privacy.

Remote Work:

With the recent “Stay-at-home” orders by local government and actions taken by businesses, an increased number of individuals are working from home.  Be aware that even on the UNT VPN, working from home changes the way your computer is interacting with the internet.  Websites you browse are no longer being filtered and your system can be exposed to greater risk.  Follow university guidelines for computer and system use. Review the following website for guidance if needed:

https://healthalerts.unt.edu/cybersecurity-safeguards-working-remotely

 

Malware/Phishing/Ransomware:

An increase number of Malware, Ransomware, and Phishing attacks have been detected and reported as early as January of 2020.  Emails and Websites that reference and provide information about COVID-19 are being used to target unsuspecting users.

  • Be cautious and do not open emails from individuals you do not know or are not expecting.  Reach out to a user through a secondary method (phone call) to validate a suspicious email.
  • Be cautions of websites you have not validated, for instance Malware has been tied to websites that mimic COVID-19 Infection Maps

 

Scams/Fake News:

A recent increase in COVID-19 specific 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 attacks that have been reported include free public offers (free phones), up front sales for items in short supply, home-test kits, donation calls for COVID-19 related charity, or fear attempts such as National Guard/CDC locking down the country.  

Here is an example of a recent Fake News item:

 

Here are some suggestions to protect yourself from the attack:

  1. Never click on a link provided 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 it is coming, 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 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)

 

To check for a list of ongoing scams you can review any of the following websites:

https://www.fcc.gov/covid-scams

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/coronavirus-scams-what-ftc-doing

https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/mcm-issues/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

 

For information about UNT and COVID-19 please see the following site:

https://www.untsystem.edu/covid-19