Interpol warns of "alarming" cyber crime spread, exploiting the pandemic

Global police body Interpol warned on Monday of an "alarming" rate of cyber crime during the coronavirus pandemic, with criminals taking advantage of people working from home to target major institutions. An assessment by the Lyon-based organisation found a "significant target shift" by criminals from individuals and small businesses to major corporations, governments and critical infrastructure.

The report said cyber criminals were sending Covid-19 themed phishing emails, which seek to obtain confidential data from users, often impersonating government and health authorities. Cyber criminals are increasingly using disruptive malware against critical infrastructure and healthcare institutions, it added.

"Cyber criminals are developing and boosting their attacks at an alarming pace, exploiting the fear and uncertainty caused by the unstable social and economic situation created by Covid-19," Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock said, cited by AFP. "The increased online dependency for people around the world is also creating new opportunities, with many businesses and individuals not ensuring their cyber defences are up to date," he added.

In the first two weeks of April 2020, there was a rise in ramsomware attacks, in which users have to pay money to get their computer to work again. There was also an increase in the spread of fake news and misinformation which sometimes itself conceals malware, Interpol said.

The agency warned the trend was set to continue and a "further increase in cyber crime is highly likely in the near future”. Once a Covid-19 vaccine becomes available, Interpol said, "it is highly probable that there will be another spike in phishing related to these medical products as well as network intrusion and cyber attacks to steal data".

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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