CYBER criminals are using the coronavirus pandemic, and the public’s ongoing thirst for virus information and updates, to secure sensitive information and spread malware.
Al Baraka Bank’s Acting Risk Manager, Mr Luqman Issadeen, has warned clients against opening or downloading seemingly reputable communications dealing with the virus.
His call follows the identification by the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric), of which Al Baraka Bank is a member, of the fact that cyber criminals are using widespread ‘coronamania’ to spread coronavirus scams.
There has been a marked increase in new domains related to the coronavirus, which contain key words, such as ‘corona’ or ‘covid,’ and which claim to have details on the pandemic, how to prevent it and other public health information.
They appear to come from trusted sources, deceiving victims into providing sensitive information, downloading malware, or clicking on links which can do either.
‘Members of the public need to be extremely wary of information purporting to be about the virus and to only follow official information from Government and reputable health-care agencies.
‘Any suspect email or SMS should not be opened. If previewing such a communication is possible and the email requests personal information or harbours suspicious attachments, it should simply not be opened. Remember, no bank representative will ever request personal details via SMS.
‘We cannot emphasise enough the need for people to redouble their defences in the face of cyber attacks at this particularly vulnerable time in our lives; a time which is now putting more than our health at risk,’ said Mr Issadeen.
The cyber criminal’s modus operandi is to make the most of people’s concerns for their health and safety in an effort to pressure them into being duped.
According to Sabric, malicious emails and SMS communications currently circulating introduce spyware with the ability to steal usernames, passwords, credit card numbers and other data stored in the user’s browser.
‘Cyber criminals are preying on the emotions and vulnerability of people whose first concern is about information regarding COVID-19 and not, necessarily, on the security associated with the sources of such information or the damage this lack of vigilance can and will have on their lives and, especially, their financial well-being,’ said Mr Issadeen.
In order not to fall victim to these scams, people need to be vigilant and aware of who is sending them emails or SMS communications.
‘When receiving an email or SMS, take the time to give long and careful consideration to the legitimacy of the sender. Now is the time to educate oneself with regard to electronic communication safeguards, whilst avoiding panic as regards the plethora of information – much of it fake – about the coronavirus, its spread and avoidance advice,’ Mr Issadeen added.
Featured image: Cyber criminals, operating across the globe, are preying on the emotions and vulnerability of people whose first concern is about information regarding COVID-19. And when people are not vigilant it leads them to open emails and SMS communications which appear to be from a trusted source. Meanwhile, a hacker uses this scam to gain their personal credentials, including passwords, usernames and banking details. (Graphic FRANK PETERS/ 123RF.COM)
This article was first published in the July 2020 print edition of Muslim Views.