COVID-19 Themed Attacks Ramp up, Become the Biggest Phishing Threat | Cyware Alerts


As the pandemic continues to impact the world, hackers are making headway on new phishing schemes that leverage users’ fears, doubt, and uncertainty around COVID-19. New research from KnowBe4 has revealed that coronavirus-related phishing emails remained the most promising attack type during the third-quarter of 2020 and will continue to foray into the last quarter. 

Email subject lines used in the wild

According to KnowBe4, the following email subject lines based around COVID-19 were popular among threat actors:
  • Payroll Deduction Form 
  • Please review the leave law requirements 
  • Password Check Required Immediately 
  • Required to read or complete: “COVID-19 Safety Policy” 
  • COVID-19 Remote Work Policy Update 
  • Vacation Policy Update 
  • Scheduled Server Maintenance — No Internet Access 
  • Your team shared the “COVID 19 Amendment and Emergency leave pay policy” with you via OneDrive 
  • Official Quarantine Notice 
  • COVID-19: Return To Work Guidelines and Requirements 

A sneak peek into recent phishing trends 

  • Armorblox spotted a new credential phishing campaign that exploited the IRS, coronavirus, and SharePoint to trick users. The email promised an important update on the recipient’s COVID-19 relief funds to be disbursed to the person’s address. Instead, it was used to spread the personal information of users.
  • Towards the end of September, scammers leveraged the recent COVID-19 financial grant announced by Facebook as bait to steal users’ identity. In this attempt, a fake CNBC news was used to post the announcement.
  • In mid-September, U.K business owners were targeted in a new phishing scam that impersonated Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and informed victims about the new updates on COVID-19 tax relief.

What else?

Besides phishing, the pandemic became a popular channel to spread malware. In an incident, cybercrooks had used the ‘U.S. President testing positive for COVID-19’ theme to distribute BazarLoader malware.

Key takeaway

Since the beginning of 2020, the pandemic has opened a variety of opportunities for new and unique espionage attacks. The year, moreover, witnessed a spike in attacks from state-sponsored actors in a bid to steal vaccine development research. At a time when ransomware kits are sold on the dark web, hackers leveraging COVID-19 for malicious activities have become even more concerning.  



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