Covid-19 causes malware and ransomware to increase
Covid-19 causes malware and ransomware to increase

Covid-19 causes malware and ransomware to increase

By Eleonora Spagnolo - 22 Sep 2020

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According to research by Trend Micro, the Covid-19 pandemic caused not only the actual disease to spread, but also increased computer viruses such as ransomware and malware

Around the world, Trend Micro blocked more than 28 billion threats, almost 1 billion more than in the same six months last year. 

In its six-monthly “Securing the Pandemic-Disrupted Workplace” report, Micro Trends found that in the first six months of 2020, their Smart Protection Network (SPN) protection system detected 8.8 million Covid-19-related threats

92% of these were emails, followed by malicious URLs and malware in general.

The most affected country is the US, with 38.4% of cases, followed by Germany (14.6%), France (9.2%), Belgium (4.7%) and the UK (4.1%).

Hackers exploited the huge demand for news related to Covid-19. It is no coincidence that cyber threats are mostly contained in emails announcing updates on the disease. 

These emails contained links or infected files, or both. In some cases neither one nor the other. 

Trend Micro also detects emails with requests for donations, to be deposited into cryptocurrency wallets

The other vulnerability exploited by cybercriminals is called BEC (business email compromise) where the promoters pretend to be institutions such as banks to steal user data.

Also prominent in this scenario are phishing attacks, linked to websites that promised to download apps to protect users from Coronavirus. 

The other “loophole” exploited by hackers involves the need for companies to use smart working. This has made it possible to launch numerous attacks directly on the PCs of staff working from home, without the security provided by companies’ IT systems. 

There have been over 1 billion attacks of this type, most of which are referred to as inbound attacks. Trend Micro also recorded almost one million attacks on smart workers’ devices and 674,000 attacks on routers. 

Among the applications targeted, there are also video conference applications, protagonists of the so-called zoombombing, a name derived from the most famous, Zoom

One of the threats discovered by Trend Micro concerned the sites that promoted the installation of Zoom: instead of installing the app, the unfortunate users downloaded malware aimed at mining cryptocurrencies

The case in Italy: 107,000 Covid-19-related malware

Italy is eighth among the countries most affected by malware and ransomware in the world, and second in Europe after Germany in terms of the number of ransomware. 

These numbers provide a better understanding of the situation:

  • 151 million email threats;
  • 107,000 Covid-themed spam messages; 
  • 6 million malicious URLs visited:
  • 127 thousand malicious apps downloaded:
  • 2,000 malware hitting online banking services. 

It is recommended to follow a few practical tips for better protection:

  • Update the antivirus and anti-spam systems;
  • Pay attention to the links visited and the apps not downloaded from official websites or stores;
  • Never provide data via email if uncertain about the source that is asking for it. 
Eleonora Spagnolo

Journalist passionate about the web and the digital world. She graduated with honours in Multimedia Publishing at the University La Sapienza in Rome and completed a master's degree in Web and Social Media Marketing.

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