Phishing on the Rise During the Pandemic – Here’s How to Fight It

Cybersecurity threats based on major disasters or world events are nothing new. During the coronavirus pandemic, one threat in particular has increased much more quickly than others: phishing for sensitive information in disguised emails. During March 2020 alone, phishing attacks were up 667 percent! Protecting your system from the malicious intrusion of phishing emails is critical, and Castra wants to help. Read on to learn about how COVID-19 is changing the face of cybersecurity and how you can protect your business.

The Threats

Between March 1 and March 23, coronavirus-related phishing attacks accounted for 2% of the 468 total detected spear-phishing emails, and more than half of those were scams. An additional 34% were brand impersonations, 11% represented blackmail business email, and 1% were business email compromised (BEC). 

The FBI warns that threat actors are taking advantage of the increased public demand for any information available on the virus and economic relief. In the U.S., phishing attempts are being linked to Congress’ stimulus package, airline refunds, loan abatements, and other economic relief solutions. 

The FBI also noted that attackers are leveraging BEC schemes to hit municipalities purchasing protective equipment and other supplies related to the pandemic. These emails target anyone who executes legitimate funds transfers. One bank received an email from a supposed customer in China requesting they transfer invoice payments to another bank due to “Coronavirus audits” that had rendered their existing bank accounts inaccessible. The bank realized too late that the email was fraudulent, and the transferred funds were lost.

In Japan, one attack circulated Emotet Trojans after the sender claimed to be a disability welfare service provider. The emails were written in Japanese and contained malicious Microsoft Office documents offering “updates” on the virus.

Attackers are also hitting overwhelmed healthcare personnel and other members of the supply chain to harvest credentials, and due to HIPPA regulations, each of these detections is treated as a breach.

Exacerbating Circumstances

Attack methods logically exploit changes in the global environment, and the biggest change right now is the number of people working remotely, many for the first time. This change means mass remote login activity, mostly over private, insecure machines with user accounts that have recently been set up for remote access, making login credentials an easy target.

Additionally, shadow IT is creeping into the picture as workers find tools that best suit their needs outside of the office. The integration of applications unsanctioned by IT further complicates security. And personal email being accessed on company computers is prime real estate for weaponized text-based attacks.

Detection is Key

The key to avoiding becoming a victim of phishing attacks is for everyone in your company to be aware of what phishing is and the harm it can cause. 

  • Detection comes first in any solid cybersecurity protection plan. Be sure your company has the right tools in place to protect your computers from phishing attacks. Anti-phishing software can keep these schemes at bay, detecting any vulnerability, identifying malicious activity from existing malware in the system, and neutralizing any malware that is in phishing emails.
  • Training your employees is also critical. Employees need to know how they can combat phishing attacks. Besides being the first point of contact for phishing emails, employees are the bridge between the scammer and the company. Be sure your employees know what phishing is and how scammers use it as a means of getting the sensitive data they want.
  • Empowering your employees to take action is the final piece of the puzzle. Employees trained on how phishing emails work will know to view all emails with a critical eye and step away from those that might be an attack, instead reporting them to IT.

Castra wants to partner with you in your fight against dangerous phishing attacks. Contact us today to learn more about adding detection capabilities to your systems.