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Interpol Has Issued a Covid-19 Cyberthreat Warning

Hackers are punching on the intense interest and attention Covid-19 is receiving, in order to extract information and do financial damage.

Last spring we wrote about the onslaught of malware and scams that accompanied the initial outbreak of Covid-19.  As we round the turn into 2021 and the first anniversary of the pandemic, INTERPOL (The International Crime Police Organization), has issued a stark warning about the continued escalation of cyberthreats from hackers and criminals leveraging the Covid-19 pandemic.  Hackers are punching on the intense interest and attention Covid-19 is receiving, in order to extract information and do financial damage.

We wanted to let you know more about the threat, and how you can protect yourself.  We also wanted to provide a reminder that our security products, dfndr security and dfndr security Pro are designed to meet the needs of these kinds of heightened threat situations. Look to the end of this article for more information on how to download or upgrade these solutions.


The Perfect Storm Continues

With lockdowns and movement restrictions continuing as the virus surges again, many people are still more highly engaged with internet-mediated interactions than they have ever been before.  More time reading and writing emails, checking in with social media, shopping online (even for groceries), and of course, a large group of people continuing to work (and school) from home.  

With the vaccines arriving on the scene, new variants of the virus, and infection rates climbing, news about the coronavirus remains an item of exceedingly high interest.  

“Hackers  see the activity,” says Emilio Simoni, Research Director at the dfndr Lab, “they continue to focus efforts on using the intense interest regarding this topic to get over that first hurdle all hackers must clear: gaining the victim’s interest, and earning their implicit trust.”

Simoni continues, “Since March of 2020, when the WHO declared the pandemic, the PSafe cybersecurity team has detected and blocked more than 22,2 million scams related to covid-19. Our success hasn’t stopped them from trying though — they continue to rack up more victims who choose to go online unprotected.”  


Messages Change, Mediums & Methods Stay The Same 

INTERPOL suggests there are three primary methods hackers are using to steal information or make financial threats:

Malicious Domains: Domains using “coronavirus,” and “Covid-19” in some form or other, have grown exponentially. Many are legitimate of course, but hackers use the familiarity of the term, and resemblance to legitimate sites to make their dangerous sites look credible.

Malware: Malicious code that takes up residence on your computer and steals information or takes command of your machine. Malware is being used on Covid-19 sites and maps, in emails, and on apps offered for tracking or avoiding the virus.

Ransomware: Ransomware threats are targeting medical and public institutions already over-stressed with managing their coronavirus response, as hackers feel this pressure increases the likelihood their ransoms will be paid.


Be On The Lookout

“Any time there is a large scale event or response to this pandemic,’ Simonis notes, “hackers will swoop in again — I think this is particularly important to remember as additional stimulus funds are made available, and as vaccine information and availability ramps up.”  

Another powerful factor driving this storm is curiosity: people are extremely hungry to hear news, and hopeful / practical news in particular.  Scammers have stepped into make the most of these factors, and as Emilio Simoni, Research Director at the dfndr Lab explains: “What we’re seeing is cybercriminals redoubling their efforts to create more, increasingly sophisticated scams, in order to reap profit from baseless, sensational ads or news — or through thefts of personal and financial data. The information they offer is almost invariably false, and sometimes the information itself is immediately dangerous to victims who act on it.”



Interpol suggests that users: “Be vigilant. Be skeptical, Be safe.” They suggest the following basic steps for protection:

  • Backup online and off-line files regularly and securely
  • Strengthen [security for] your home network
  • Use strong passwords
  • Keep your software updated
  • Manage your social media profiles with care (and strong passwords)!
  • Check privacy and security settings on the devices and platforms you use
  • Avoid opening or (especially) clicking on anything from suspicious emails


PSafe’s Advice and Added Protections

In addition to all the basics above, Simoni notes that “It’s crucial that you make sure you’re using a security solution that’s built to alert you immediately when you access a scam site, or interact with a known digital virus carrier.” Of course, dfndr security has an excellent Anti-Hacking feature you can activate if you have the app — and if you don’t have the app,  you can download the free version, right here. PSafe’s Anti Hacking capability will protect you from phishing scams and other dangers — our database of known malicious sites and senders grows every day.



Finally, dfndr security also protects you by letting you know if your wi-fi connection has rogue users.  If it does, you can easily change your password and knock them off.

If you upgrade to the dfndr security Pro version, you’ll get the added benefit of a Safe App Installer (which warns you if an app you’re about to install may be a vector for malware). It also offers Identity Theft Protection that can keep you apprised if your personal information is compromised in a cybersecurity — for example on a large corporate website or platform.

As this emergency continues, we’re going to keep working to keep you informed and up to date.  Emilio Simoni provides us with a final summary of the situation: “It’s unfortunate that such trying times must be further complicated by malicious actors, but that’s why we come to work everyday: to thwart their efforts. If you stay vigilant as INTERPOL suggests, and use our security solutions, you can stay two steps ahead of the crooks. We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure you can!”

dfndr security is free, fast, and extremely easy to use. It provides excellent AntiVirus and AntiHacking capabilities, and it also will help you maintain your device in tip top running condition. The PRO version can protect your identity, your privacy, and help you recover your device if stolen.  Download the free version and read more, here.