Covid maps new hunting ground for cyber crooks

Agencies warn cyber crooks embedding spywares, Trojans in interactive coronavirus maps, websites

By Author  |  Published: 5th Jul 2020  12:15 amUpdated: 5th Jul 2020  12:30 am
Covid maps

Hyderabad: Maps of containment zones and Covid-affected areas in cities, which are in high demand with people wanting to know whether they are safe, are the latest hunting ground for cyber crooks, according to alerts from the Cybercrime wing of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Interpol and a host of other global security and cybercrime research agencies.

While the Interpol, in an advisory a few weeks ago warned that malware, spyware and Trojans have been found embedded in interactive coronavirus maps and websites, Cyber Dost, the MHA’s cybercrime wing’s official Twitter handle, has tweeted earlier this week saying that ‘due to apprehensions associated with Covid-19, cyber criminals are playing various tricks like using promotional codes and coronavirus maps’.

According to another report from security research agency Reason Cybersecurity, this trick was being deployed right from March, with the map ‘doing its dirty work via the link’. Victims who visit the page were shown a map of the globe highlighting countries where the virus has spread, with stats on deaths and infections recorded.

“To give the fake and malicious map an extra aura of authenticity, criminals designed it to mimic a legitimate Covid-19 threat map from Johns Hopkins University that shows countries hit by the virus with latest statistics,” a report in Infosecurity Magazine said, adding that victims clicking on the link were unknowingly activating malicious information stealing software.

Now, Covid-19 discounts

Maps are not all. The cybercrime underworld is buzzing with Covid-19 discount offers, according to security research firm CheckPoint.

Hackers are selling malware and hacking tools through ‘Covid-19’ discount codes on the Dark Net, with codes sold in a fashion similar to Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals in a bid to woo cyber criminals. The research firm said these codes were aimed at spreading malware. One such sale had hackers selling tools to hack into Facebook accounts at a discount rate, ‘15 percent off with Covid-19 code’. In another example, hackers were selling a special offer ‘CoronaVirus Discount! 10% off ALL products’ for a malicious toolkit aimed at bypassing email and Chrome security.

Covid maps

Pandemic in cyber world too

By June, agencies like CheckPoint documented an average of 1.92 lakh coronavirus-related cyberattacks per week. They said a majority of these attacks start with phishing emails impersonating the WHO, United Nations, Zoom, Microsoft or Google, to trick users into clicking links or opening infected documents.

With Zoom being a popular app, even for online classes, from January so far, nearly 7,000 Zoom-like domains have been registered globally. Microsoft’s ‘Teams’ and Google Meet too are being used to lure people into clicking malicious URLs.

According to CheckPoint, hackers have gone into an overdrive to take advantage of the pandemic, with the theme of impersonation being clear and strong.

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