Cyber attacks using the ongoing coronavirus epidemic are on the rise, according to Kaspersky's Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META) head of presales, Emad Haffar.
The company has uncovered multiple Covid-19 related malicious e-mail campaigns and hundreds of downloadable files that attempt to infect users' devices with the threats.
Haffar said that the scope of the coronavirus epidemic makes it a unique situation when it comes to cyber security.
Lately we saw more elaborate spam campaigns that mimic the World Health Organisation"
"It's a global event. Every single person on planet earth is interested in at least reading about the coronavirus, how to protect themselves, the latest news and so forth," he added. "Half of the social engineering effort [cybercriminals] need to put in is already done," he told Arabian Business.
Researchers have detected malicious files that were masked under the guise of pdf, mp4 and docx files about the coronavirus. The names of files imply that they contain video instructions on how to protect yourself from the virus, updates on the threat and even virus detection procedures, which is not actually the case. In fact, these files contained threats to users' devices.
"The coronavirus, which is being widely discussed as a major news story, has already been used as bait by cybercriminals. Now, the number of users whose devices have had malicious files named after the coronavirus on them has risen to 403 in 2020, with a total of 2,673 detections and 513 unique files distributed," malware analyst at Kaspersky, Anton Ivanov, said.
While the numbers rose significantly compared to the initial statistics we have shared, this threat is still rather minimal," he added.
Security researcher at Kaspersky, Tatyana Scherbakova added: "Lately we saw more elaborate spam campaigns that mimic the World Health Organisation (WHO). Cybercriminals recognise the important role the WHO has in providing trustworthy information about the coronavirus."
The situation is not limited to the Middle East, with a spam campaign going ripe in Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the virus in Europe. The criminals have made their email click-worthy by writing the message in Italian, referencing known infections in Italy, including a fake reference from an Italian WHO official as well as urging Italian citizens in particular to pursue the document.