“Cybercriminals were quick to realize many years ago that people fall prey to hot topics,” says Costin Raiu, Director of Global Research & Analysis, Kaspersky. And today’s hottest topic is the pandemic.

Chapter 2 of hacker:HUNTER ha(ck)c1ne explores COVID-related phishing attacks, known as spear-phishing. These attacks skyrocketed by nearly seven times between February and March this year.

When the virus took force, and we were all frantic trying to help each other, cybercriminals found a way to wreak havoc. In September, Facebook announced an aid program of $100 million for small business owners affected by the pandemic. When the story was picked up by the media, hackers started fishing (or, more accurately, phishing) with the bait.

Hack the news

Cybercriminals published fake news saying Facebook would be handing out free money to everyone affected by COVID-19. On a site cleverly disguised to look like Facebook, you fill out a form that shares personal data like your address, social security number or a photo of your ID. You get a confirmation message that your application has been accepted and sit back and wait for the money to arrive. It never will.

The worst part? It’s not the false hope, but what cybercriminals can do with this information: tricking friends and family members into sending money, credit card fraud or even identity theft


You’ve got mail

It’s not just people like us who criminals are targeting – organizations are hit too. At work, you get sent an email you think is from someone you know or your manager. But when you click on a link or open an attachment, it downloads malicious software opening the door for hackers to access the corporate network. They download data to sell on the dark web, or encrypt it via ransomware and force the business to pay the ransom to stop it from being leaked.

Keep it safe

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

Criminals have the resources to hit everyone, from society’s most vulnerable people to lucrative targets like big businesses and government. “Clearly the world is not as safe as we would like it to be. We’re surrounded by all kinds of new and different threats,” explains Zak Doffman, Founder and CEO of Digital Barriers. “The access to COVID treatments is a nation-state wide competitive advantage.”

In the face of this influx of threats, more kudos to the people keeping us and our data safe, like the Cyber Volunteers 19. To keep yourself safe, Kaspersky Daily serves up advice on spotting and protecting yourself from the Facebook grants scam.