News & Analysis

Beware! Coronavirus-themed Domains Could be Malicious

Concerns about COVID-19, or novel coronavirus, seem to have become as contagious as the virus itself, with headlines spreading across virtually every media outlet.  For example, hosts over 1,200 articles mentioning the disease, and a search on the website of The Financial Times produces over 1,100 results.

As the virus spreads across the globe, people are naturally searching online for the latest information and updates on how it might affect them, and what they can do to protect themselves and their families. And as you might expect, cyber-criminals are quick to take advantage of these concerns for their own gain.

In an article authored by Check Point Software Technologies, it says that hackers around the world have found the Coronavirus serving them well as an enabler for their activities, and are still riding the wave of the epidemic.

“Our Global Threat Index for January 2020 shows cyber-criminals are exploiting interest in the global epidemic to spread malicious activity, with several spam campaigns relating to the outbreak of the virus,” the article says.

Since January 2020, based on Check Point Threat Intelligence, there have been over 4,000 coronavirus-related domains registered globally. Out of these websites, 3% were found to be malicious and an additional 5% are suspicious. Coronavirus- related domains are 50% more likely to be malicious than other domains registered at the same period, and also higher than recent seasonal themes such as Valentine’s day.

Many of these domains will probably be used for phishing attempts. As of now, Check Point already spotted and protects online users from many websites known to be related to malicious activities that lure the victims to their websites with discussions around the virus, as well as from scam websites that claim to sell face masks, vaccines, and home tests that can detect the virus.

In addition, a widespread targeted coronavirus themed phishing campaign was recently spotted targeting Italian organisations, hitting over 10% of all organisations in Italy with the aim of exploiting concerns over the growing cluster of infections in the country.

So how can you avoid falling victim to these scam attempts? Our recommendations for safe online behaviour are:

  • Be cautious with emails and files received from unknown senders, especially if they prompt for a certain action you would not usually do.
  • Ensure you are ordering goods from an authentic source. One way to do this is NOT to click on promotional links in emails, and instead Google your desired retailer and click the link from the Google results page.
  • Beware of “special” offers. “An exclusive cure for Coronavirus for $150” is usually not a reliable or trustworthy purchase opportunity but most likely fraud. At this point of time there is no cure for the coronavirus and even if there was, it definitely would not be offered to you via an email.

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