While organizations can take plenty of steps to ensure employees are well-equipped to work remotely in a secure manner, threat actors of all stripes are already taking advantage of the COVID19/coronavirus situation. Never ones to miss an opportunity, attackers are ramping up operations to spread malware via Covid19-themed emails, apps, websites and social media. Here’s a breakdown of potential threat vectors and techniques threat actors are using to attack organizations.
How attackers exploit the COVID-19 crisis
1. Phishing emails
Email is and will continue to be the largest threat vector for people and organizations. Cybercriminals have long used world events in phishing campaigns to up their hit rate, and coronavirus is no exception.
The NCSC and the World Health Organization (WHO), among others, have made public warnings about fraudulent emails purporting to be from official bodies. Various phishing emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been circulating.
BAE Systems reports that threat actors sending out COVID-19-themed emails include the Indian Government-targeting Transparent Tribe (also known as APT36), Russia-linked Sandworm/OlympicDestroyer and Gamaredon groups, and the Chinese-affiliated groups Operation Lagtime and Mustang Panda APTS.
2. Malicious apps
Although Apple has placed limits on COVID19-related apps in its App Store and Google has removed some apps from the Play store, malicious apps can still pose a threat to users. DomainTools uncovered a site that urged users to download an Android app that provides tracking and statistical information about COVID-19, including heatmap visuals. However, the app is actually loaded with an Android-targeting ransomware now known as COVIDLock. The ransom note demands $100 in bitcoin in 48 hours and threatens to erase your contacts, pictures and videos, as well as your phone’s memory.
3. Bad Domains
New websites are being quickly spun up to disseminate information relating to the pandemic. However, many of them will also be traps for unsuspecting victims. Recorded Future reports that hundreds of COVID-19-related domains have been registered every day for the last few weeks. Checkpoint suggests COVID-19-related domains are 50% more likely to be malicious than other domains registered in the same period.
4. Insecure endpoints and end users
With large numbers of employees or even the entire businesses working remotely for an extended time, the risks around endpoints and the people that use them increase. Devices that staff use at home could become more vulnerable if employees fail to update their systems regularly.
Working from home for long periods of time may also encourage users to download shadow applications onto devices or flout policies they would normally follow in the office. Less business travel might reduce the chance of employees having security issues at borders, but it only reduces the threat of connecting to insecure WiFi networks or losing devices if they actually stay at home. Those that do go out to work from cafes — and some probably will — might still be susceptible to theft or loss of devices, or man-in-the-middle attacks.
5. Vulnerabilities at vendors and third parties
Every partner, customer and service provider in your ecosystem is likely going through all the same issues as your organization. Liaise with critical parts of your third-party ecosystem to ensure they are taking measures to secure their remote workforce.
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