Phishing scams have been around since emails were invented. Someone is always trying to leach off the hard work you do in order to steal your information, corrupt your systems and attempt to extort you for money. Hackers are never more active than when the world is in crisis. Enter the coronavirus.

What You Need to Know

Phishing is the act of using false emails to gain valuable personal info about you or your company. In this case, hackers are using the coronavirus pandemic to pose as individuals and organizations you may know in order to take advantage of you. Below are some examples of some current phishing scams using believable subject lines courtesy of The Electronic Frontier Foundation.

  • New COVID-19 prevention and treatment information! The attachment contains instructions from the U.S. Department of Health on how to get the vaccine for FREE
  • URGENT: COVID-19 ventilators and patient test delivery blocked. Please accept orders here to continue with shipment.

During this time of uncertainty, common sense and attention to detail are your best chances to sniff out a malicious email.

Coronavirus Related Phishing Examples

Again, courtesy of the EFF, are examples of messages you may be reading that may entice you to click on a bad link.

Example 1

Hello.

We have urgent information about the CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19). VBS presentation in rar. The attachment contains a document with safety and coronavirus prevention instructions, also instructions from the U.S. Department of Health on how to get the vaccine for FREE.

Send this information to all your loved ones as soon as possible.

rar password : 1234567

=================================

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

200 Independence Avenue, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20201

Toll-Free Call Center: 1-800-368-1019

TTD Number: 1-800-537-7697

Example 2

(In this example, notice how the links they provide start with https; and not https: This is a common tactic of putting two very similar-looking characters by each other so that the user won’t notice the difference and will click on the link before realizing it’s not what it appears to be.)

The outbreak of Coronavirus is a rapidly developing situation and is likely to affect many travel plans over the coming months. We strongly recommend that anyone traveling or planning to travel takes guidance from the Foreign and Commonwealth office:

https;//eff.org/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-staff

The WHO’s designation of coronavirus as a pandemic yesterday has significant implications for the operation of the insurance policy cover and these are clearly posing unprecedented challenges.

The team have put together some advice for you based on current activities:

I am traveling to a country where there has been an outbreak?

If the WHO advise against travel to the area you are visiting then in the first instance you should contact your travel operator or medical practitioner to reschedule or ask for protective tips. MOST REPORTED CASES SAVES LIFES.

Kindly take a break and read the attached articles on our site and further references on the issue for our staff

https;//www.google.com/tips/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public

Example 3

(In this example provided by Abnormal Security, the target’s name and the university the sender is pretending to be from have been removed. The link directs the target to a page asking them to log in to their Outlook account. This seemingly harmless login page is actually stealing those credentials.)

Hi ______,

Kindly check the latest information about COVID-19 [Coronavirus]

https://www.[xxxxxx].edu/content/covid-19-coronavirus-information.pdf

The Trustees of [xxxxxx] University | Health Team

PDF icon Informative handout on malware from the Security Education Companion

How Do I Know If It’s a Phishing Scam?

  • It sounds too good to be true.
  • Creates a sense of urgency
  • It contains misleading hyperlinks, i.e., a popular website misspelled or an entirely different site that is unprotected.
  • It contains an attachment – often leading to ransomware or other viruses.
  • It’s from a sender you may not know.

What Should I Do?

Phishing concept in word tag cloud on white background

During this time of uncertainty, common sense and attention to detail are your best chances to sniff out a malicious email. Here are some things to take note of to prevent phishing attacks.

  • Check the email address
  • If it’s someone you know, is it the correct address? If it’s an organization, does the domain and sender fit with the message? Are there abnormalities in the format of the email address?
  • Don’t download anything unless you know for a fact that the sender can be trusted
  • Don’t click unless you know the sender can be trusted
  • One way to inspect is to HOVER over any links. Doing so will allow you to see the full URL of where you are going. If anything looks suspicious, DO NOT CLICK.
  • Verify
  • If something looks suspicious and it’s coming from a friend, contact them to make sure
  • If it’s an organization you have heard of, maybe emails with certain intent always come from a specific email address. For example, all updates come from the info@domain email address. Have you even signed up for notifications?

Stay Vigilant-Especially If You Work in Healthcare

Healthcare professionals are working overtime right now, trying to reduce the spread of the pandemic and trying to care for those infected. They are being targeted heavily by hackers phishing them pretending to be from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). They are sending out emails parading as those reputable organizations claiming new information in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

Regardless of your profession, you can be targeted at any time. Follow the tips in this blog and stay vigilant for emails that look suspicious. For more protection, enlist a company with cybersecurity expertise.

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