Microsoft warns of massive COVID-19 phishing attack: Pandemic has made India a playground for cyber scammers – Times Now

Cybercrime has been on the rise in India since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Cybercrime has been on the rise in India since the COVID-19 outbreak.&nbsp | &nbspPhoto Credit:&nbspTwitter

Key Highlights

  • Of the myriad schemes taking place, ransomware attacks and phishing attacks are most prominent, many of which are quite sophisticated
  • Even popular tele-conferencing application, Zoom, has not escaped the eyes of cyber criminals, with reports in April stating that over 500,000 accounts were hacked
  • At the start of April, law enforcement authorities filed a case against a cyber fraudster who attempted to sell the Statue of Unity

With the coronavirus outbreak unleashing widescale fear and uncertainty over both, personal and professional prospects, it hasn’t take long for the cybercriminals to come out to play. Since the first cases were recorded in the country, cybercrime activity has surged in the nation, and continues to do so, in a country with the second largest population in the world. 

The bold measure of effectively quarantining the entire nation has been accompanied with a rise in internet-related criminal activity by 86 per cent as detailed by officials from the Home Ministry in April. 

It should come as little surprise that the bulk of the scams in operation have looked to exploit the current outbreak by luring users to provide access to, or share personal and financial information. Of the myriad schemes taking place, ransomware attacks and phishing attacks are most prominent, many of which are quite sophisticated, according to industry experts. 

Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President Ann Johnson had previously revealed between February 2 and May 2, 9,100 “total file encounters related to COVID-19” were recorded. In the entirety of Asia, 19 million attacks were carried out, she said. 

Vulnerabilities arising from remote working

Opportunities for cyber scammers have also arisen from companies’ transitions toward remote working models. With inadequate security and control measures in place, cyber criminals have had a field day in collecting unsecured personal and company-related information. 

Even popular tele-conferencing application, Zoom, has not escaped the eyes of cyber criminals, with reports in April stating that over 500,000 accounts were hacked, and user credentials made available for sale on the Dark Web at prices as low as Rs 0.15. These details included email addresses, passwords, personal meeting URLS and HostKeys according to cybersecurity researchers. 

PM CARES pretenders and other scams

But these aren’t the only ways opportunistic scammers have sought to exploit the public. It wasn’t long after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the ‘PM CARES’ coronavirus fund, that dozens of pretender websites encouraging unsuspecting people to donate to fake accounts emerged. Home Ministry officials have revealed that over 8,000 complaints were received from Indians at home and abroad who had been fooled into donating to spurious portals. 

And such scams aren’t even the most brazen of them all. At the start of April, law enforcement authorities filed a case against a cyber fraudster who attempted to sell the Statue of Unity – the world’s largest statue valued at approximately $4 billion – claiming that the funds would go towards the state of Gujarat’s efforts in combatting the coronavirus outbreak.  

The recent warning issued by Microsoft of a massive COVID-19 themed phishing scam that encourages users to download NetSupport Manager, a remote access tool that grants an individual the ability to completely take control of a user’s system, also suggests that cyber fraudsters are growing ever more creative and ambitious by the moment. 

India is one of the most targeted countries in the world by cybercriminals. As internet penetration rates rapidly rise, fuelled primarily by growth in rural areas, adequate security measures and awareness has lagged behind severely. With the outbreak threatening to roll on for many more months, strentgthening India’s cyberdefenses and training users across best practices cannot be undermined. 

The views expressed by the author are personal and do not in any way represent those of Times Network.

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