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Be Careful: There’s A Malware Pandemic Underway Too…

During the Coronavirus pandemic, one group of people is carrying on as they always have: hackers. 

The Coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down in a matter of weeks. But one group of people is carrying on as they always have: hackers. 

If anything, they’ve only grown more brazen and active. “Overnight, the pandemic has become the number one subject on everyone’s mind,” explains Emilio Simoni, Research Director at dfndr lab, “and that’s irresistible to hackers and scammers.”

Simoni continues: “The first job of any scammer is to get your attention: to stop you on your path and pull your interest toward their offer or message.  The coronavirus pandemic has created a topic that everyone is intensely interested in, all over the world. This has made the scammer’s job much, much easier. And they’re making use of both the intensity of interest and the global breadth of exposure.” 

An Explosion of Coronavirus Malware

Under Simoni’s direction, the experts at the dfndr lab have found more than 227 different Coronavirus-content scams. Most of them offer a dashboard which falsely promises users access to a real-time map for global or local surveillance of COVID-19 cases. As soon as they’re downloaded, they act as ransomware. Typically, they lock the home screen and blackmail the victim into paying a specified amount of money to “unlock” the phone. The ransomware messages are often intimidating, claiming access to photos and private information, like this one:

SuperVPN: 100 Million Users, Finally Deleted From The Google Store

But coronavirus scams aren’t the only vulnerability out there. As Emilio Simoni explains: “You need security solutions that look out for more than scams and hackers. Even apps that aren’t clearly malware or ransomware can totally compromise your security. SuperVPN is a perfect case in point: it’s security problems have been known for over a year, but the app has been removed from the Google Play store very recently.”

SuperVPN offered users the ability to browse the internet as if they were coming from a different country, providing access to sites and functions that they wouldn’t normally be able to reach. For the app to work, an exchange of information between the device and the app was required. That process of exchange was loaded with serious vulnerabilities, and resulted in the theft of data like passwords and credit card numbers. Beyond its security issues, SuperVPN also appeared to violate Google Play’s algorithm in order to get more installs. They were very successful, racking up more than 100 million users before finally being removed.

“If you know anyone who has downloaded and installed SuperVPN,” Simoni remarks, “make sure they remove the app as soon as possible.”

Above is an illustration of how SuperVPN compromised user’s secure data.  (Image: VPNPro)

Protect Yourself From Hackers AND Vulnerabilities

One of the best ways to protect your information now is to upgrade your dfndr app (if you haven’t already) to dfndr Pro.  (Here’s a link where you can learn more, and download Pro if you decide it’s right for you.)

As apps with hidden “cracks” in security like SuperVPN illustrate, you have to be not only informed enough to resist the hackers and scams, you also have to have proven technical tools to keep your devices safe.

As Emilio Simoni explains it: “As we publicize these cases of hackers and scams, we want to be cautious and let people know that all data breaches or “malware” won’t always follow a specific pattern. Lots of data breaches happen with very reputable software makers or business transactions. There are many ways your data can be compromised. To be safe, you need more than your own human intelligence at work.” 

This is why dfndr Pro offers a full suite of security capabilities:

Unlimited Identity Theft Reports: These provide your “outer-perimeter” defense, looking out for privacy vulnerabilities beyond your own device. These reports reveal if any of your information has been leaked, with a one-click check of a database with over 4 billion compromised credentials. 

Anti-theft protection: Protects against physical loss that leads to data loss: in case of theft or loss of your device, you can lock  it down remotely, find the phone on a map; or, activate a loud alarm to find it nearby. You can also get a picture of the thief, and wipe the phone of your personal data.

Safe App Installer: Protects you from apps known to have had data breaches — before you install them.

App Privacy Scan: You can locate on a map where your app data is going and how it might be used by third-parties.

Ad-Free: As an extra bonus, Pro is totally ad-free.

Stay Vigilant!

With dfndr Pro in your toolbox, the rest is a matter of staying as aware as you can and protecting yourself and your family.  Consider adopting these rules for use of digital devices in your home:

  • Take extra care with any link or article about coronavirus. Use reliable sources, such as legitimate government websites, to get real, fact-checked stories and information on COVID-19.
  • Don’t click on links sent to you via email from unknown people. 
  • Look very closely at email addresses and names: If the source looks or sounds like someone you know but the name or email address seems even slightly off…stay away! If the name is right but the message is brief or confused, or not at all like the person you know…your friend could be the victim of a hack themselves.
  • Only download or install software from trusted sources. Make sure you double check url’s! 

Stay safe! We will keep you up to date on all the latest we hear about scams of all kinds: coronavirus-related, and otherwise. Until then, stay safe and keep your loved ones safe and informed too. 

Finally,  if you or someone you know is a healthcare worker, please accept (or pass on) our grateful thanks.