Scam-a-lot: Coronavirus has led to an increase in scam emails
May 7, 2020
2 min read
What's going on here?
Due to the ongoing crisis, there has been an increase in the number of scam emails totalling 18m a day, according to Google.
What does this mean?
Phishing attacks, also known as scam or hoax emails, is where criminals attempt to trick people into revealing their data. Most of us have received one during our lifetime, and for the most part, we ignore them. However, in recent weeks Google has found that a fifth of 100m hoax emails are related to COVID-19. These emails impersonate public institutions such as the UK Government or the World Health Organisation to persuade people to donate to fake causes or download malicious software. Google has been able to prevent most of these emails from reaching Gmail users, but a few are still reaching people’s inboxes.
What's the big picture effect?
Scam emails are not a new phenomenon and have existed since email was first widely used. They characteristically use a hot news topic which aims to provoke an emotional response in individuals, often causing them to act quickly and without thinking. As a result, someone will be more likely to click on the links and follow the scammer’s instructions. Currently, there is no greater emotionally charged topic across the globe than the coronavirus crisis. Scammers can impersonate anything ranging from airline companies, Tesco, and even mobile apps themed around the virus, which can steal personal data.
However, this issue is not unique to individuals; businesses are also being targeted. Fake websites with official government slogans have been created to defraud those applying for government loan schemes. According to Avast, a cybersecurity group akin to McAfee, hackers are also targeting hospital I.T. infrastructure, shutting them down until a cash sum is paid. These scams are disproportionality affecting smaller businesses that do not have sophisticated cybersecurity systems.
The National Cyber Security Centre has removed 2,000 websites, 471 fake PPE shops and blocked 65,000 fake text messages in the past month. Nevertheless, the national fraud centre, Action Fraud, has estimated that £2.4m has been lost in coronavirus related scams with the real figure probably higher as a result of unreported crimes. The loss of these large sums begs the question, how can the public be kept educated in the ever-developing world of cybersecurity?
Report written by Michael Johnson
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