Coronavirus Cybersecurity

Coronavirus (COVID-19) cybersecurity

As concerns of coronavirus (COVID-19) rise, cybersecurity experts warn that digital scammers are taking advantage of heightened emotions and increased online activity. According to Check Point Software Technologies, over 4,000 coronavirus-related domains have been registered globally, with at least 3 percent reported as malicious.

Learn what to look out for and how to avoid falling prey to these scams.

PHISHING EMAILS

Phishing emails are when scammers create legitimate-looking emails in hopes that recipients will respond with personal information or open malicious attachments and links.

Phishers are designing messages that look like urgent alerts from health officials, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO).

To avoid getting duped, experts from Norton say to watch out for these warning signs:

  • Offers of “medical advice” and “safety measures” from suspicious email accounts or senders outside of your company's organization
  • Promises of cures, vaccinations, test kits, or personal protection equipment
  • Phrases such as “download” or “use this link”
  • Urgently worded emails, such as “You must immediately go to this link to see safety hazards” or “The CDC needs your donations now!”
  • Suspicious workplace policy emails, where scammers pretend to be your employer releasing COVID-19 policies
  • Bad grammar, misspellings, and incorrect email addresses

Linkchecker and CheckShortURL are free resources that will check links before you open them on your browser. Quad9 allows you to see or block risky websites.

See more in-depth examples of phishing attempts at KnowBe4 and Norton.

FAKE CHARITIES

We all want to help each other during this crisis. Unfortunately, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warns that hackers are using this impulse to their advantage by creating fake charities. These can look like charities from official sources, such as the CDC, or be a fake fundraiser for a local mom-and-pop shop. Research charities before donating, and only make purchases on trusted websites that have “https://” in front of their site name.

If you get a message from the World Health Organization pleading for donations know that the WHO has says that it will never ask for direct donations to emergency response plans via email, separate websites, calls, or texts. To learn how to give to WHO, here is the actual link. (Now would be a good time to test out Linkchecker or CheckShortURL!)

MISINFORMATION AND FALSE SOURCES

Maybe it’s a social media post from a beloved family member, or an email that pops up in your inbox saying there are new cases of COVID-19 in your area, or that scientists have found a “secret cure.” In fear or hope, you click on the link ... only to be taken to a site that clearly is not a reputable news source.

Misinformation is catastrophe’s best friend. Promises of quick cures for the coronavirus are just as fraudulent as phishing emails. Sites that post updates with outbreak numbers from non-official sources pander to panic to further their own goals or beliefs.

Gather your information from news sources you trust and know. Your local news outlets, the CDC, and WHO are reliable places for information and updates about the virus.

Cybersecurity tips and tricks  Cybersecurity for college students

EXTRA PROTECTION AT NO EXTRA CHARGE

If you have a homeowner’s policy with Grinnell Mutual or a mutual member, you can receive identify theft protection at no extra charge with CyberScout.

CyberScout fraud protection