Hackers are using the coronavirus panic to trick victims into downloading malware

Hackers are using the coronavirus panic to trick victims into downloading malware
Hackers are using the panic around the coronavirus to spread theft malwarePxfuel

  • Hackers are using the panic around coronavirus to launch data theft attacks using malware.
  • The most common way that cybercriminals are infiltrating systems is by using the Emotet software designed to steal personal and financial data.
  • Kaspersky’s security experts have found at least 10 different file types being used to trick users into installing malware.
Coronavirus is trending across Google and social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. The panic around the outbreak has incentivised cybercriminals to launch malware attacks to exploit user interest.

Hackers are sending out clickbaity links to trick people into divulging sensitive data. What looks like a harmless link might actually be a trojan virus or worm. And, the most common way to achieve this objective is to use the Emonet software.

"After a brief recess around Christmas and New Year, Emotet is very much back as the behemoth of email malware," Mollie MacDougall, the threat intelligence manager at Cofense, told Global Data.
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What does a coronavirus malware attack look like?
The first malware campaign centred around the coronavirus was detected by IBM’s X-Force Threat Intelligence. According to their investigation, the malware was targeting victims suspected of being infected by the outbreak.

In most instances, hackers are sending out emails that look like they come from public health centres — with a Microsoft Word document attached. The documents normally have an urgent-looking title to bait users into opening it.

However, on opening the link, there is no additional information about the coronavirus. Instead, the malicious malware called Emotet is installed — software that’s designed to steal financial data, banking logins and other personal information.

But, it’s not only Microsoft Word documents that are on the prowl. According to Kaspersky security experts, malware disguised as pdf and mp4 files have also been spotted.

"So far, we have seen only 10 unique files, but as this sort of activity often happens with popular media topics then we expect that this tendency may grow," Anton Ivanov, a malware analyst at Kaspersky told Computer Weekly.

How to protect yourself against a coronavirus theft malware
Analysts believe that areas that are more susceptible to the coronavirus are being targeted more actively. For instance, a large number of the emails discovered by IBM X-Force were written in Japanese.

In order to keep yourself protected from such threats, avoid clicking on unfamiliar links. If you really want more information about the coronavirus, it’s probably better to run a separate Google Search. Maintain a healthy suspicion of new links, even if shared by friends or family members, because they may not be aware that their security has been breached.

Also, keep an eye on file extensions. Legitimate documents and video files are unlikely to have .exe or .lnk formats. These precautions are recommended in addition to the basics — like having anti-virus software and an active firewall on your device.

"We expect to see more malicious email traffic based on the coronavirus in the future, as the infection spreads," said the report by IBM.

"Unfortunately, it is quite common for threat actors to exploit human emotions such as fear — especially if a global event has already caused terror and panic," it adds.

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