Spammers Using Coronavirus COVID-19 to Target Unsuspecting Email Recipients

by | Mar 10, 2020

Hackers, spammers and cybercriminals are always leveraging current events to try and target susceptible Internet, SMS and email users and the coronavirus COVID 19 is no different.

In the United States an alerts has been issued by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in relation to an SMS message that is being broadcast which offers protection from the virus if the recipients clicks on the URL provided. They are advised that every recipient has one dosage reserved for them so they must act fast to avail of it. However the URl that readers are taken to includes malware to allow for a phishing campaign.

The Indiana Attorney General’s office made public a statement Monday regarding scams related to coronavirus. it read: “If a consumer receives a phone call, text, or email that claims to provide support and assistance related to the coronavirus, consumers should scrutinize the message to determine if it is legitimate,” the Indiana Attorney General’s office said in a statement to RTV6. “If the message claims that it can provide a cure or other means of protection, then the message is most likely a scam. For information on how to protect yourself related to the coronavirus, consumers should contact the Indiana State Department of Health.”

In addition to this Tim Maniscalo from the BBB said: “It’s a time when people are very concerned, there’s a lot of fears out there, and the scammers know that. They’re trying to play off of that fear that people have. And that somehow they can be protected with ‘vaccines’ that don’t exist or a protection kit that is really not effective.”

Meanwhile In Italy Trickbot malware has been identified which is leveraging the rapid spreading of the infection in that country. The e-mail includes a file which, it claims, includes a list of recommended precautions to take to prevent infection. However, the enclosed file is in fact a weaponized Word document, that includes a Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) script with a dropper used to install a new Trickbot variant. The emails begin with the subject line ‘coronavirus: informazioni importanti su precauzioni’  and claim to have been sent by a ‘Dr. Penelope Marchetti ”—state (in Italian): “Due to the fact that cases of coronavirus infection are documented in your area, the World Health Organization has prepared a document that includes all necessary precautions against coronavirus infection. We strongly recommend that you read the document attached to this message!”

Sophos, a cybersecurity company, has also revealed an increase in spear-phishing messages targeting people in Italy, where coronavirus infections have surged in recent weeks. Those messages included a link to a Microsoft Word document that claimed to list cures for the virus. When downloaded, it installed malicious malware on people’s computers. It is natural to assume that these campaign will spread to other countries as the cases of COVID 19 are identified there.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also released a warning that fake email from WHO staff are being circulated. The emails include malicious code that will be sued for hacing a computer or network. You can read the WHO warning here.

Everyone is reminded that the standard rules in relation to receiving and identifying spam email messages are to be used. They include:

  1. Never Open an email or click on a URL in an email sent from an unknown sender.
  2. If an offer for a free online vaccination seems to good to be true then it is fake.
  3. Be sure to update your anti-virus and anti-malware software to the most recent versions.

If you are unsure what you can do to spot these emails then you should contact a specialist company which is experienced in this matter as soon as you can. Failing to do so could result in your company losing hard-earned cash and impacting on your long-term development.



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Patrick Kennedy

Patrick Kennedy is a highly accomplished journalist and editor with nearly two decades of experience in the field. With expertise in writing and editing content, Patrick has made significant contributions to various publications and organizations. Over the course of his career, Patrick has successfully managed teams of writers, overseeing the production of high-quality content and ensuring its adherence to professional standards. His exceptional leadership skills, combined with his deep understanding of journalistic principles, have allowed him to create cohesive and engaging narratives that resonate with readers. A notable area of specialization for Patrick lies in compliance, particularly in relation to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). He has authored numerous articles delving into the complexities of compliance and its implications for various industries. Patrick's comprehensive understanding of HIPAA regulations has positioned him as a go-to expert, sought after for his insights and expertise in this field. Patrick's bachelors degree is from the University of Limerick and his master's degree in journalism is from Dublin City University. You can contact Patrick through his LinkedIn profile:

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