Capitalizing on Coronavirus: How Hackers Are Using Fear to Prey on the Public
As the coronavirus blazed its way across the globe, it dismantled pretty much everything about our normal daily lives, from the ways we work and learn to the ways we interact with one another. If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed, however, is that when people are scared and hurting, there will be others ready to exploit that pain.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. As the nation goes into lockdown and communities band together to comfort and protect one another amid one of the worst global crises in modern history, authorities are seeing a surge in virus-related scams.
This article describes strategies you can use to ferret out the fraudsters, and we’ll show you how to safeguard yourself and those you love from these COVID criminals.
The Significance of the Threat
Unlike the virus, there’s nothing novel about cyberthreats. Hackers have been menacing not only private users but also major corporations and even federal governments for decades.
Whether you’re using the internet for business or pleasure, for personal or private reasons, it’s imperative to be cyber-security conscious and cautious. While it’s certainly possible to overcorrect and implement so many protections on your system that it becomes virtually unusable, it’s even more likely that your system isn’t set up to adequately deal with today’s ever-evolving cyber-security threats.
The pandemic has provided the perfect environment for hackers, as more and more people turn to the internet to connect with friends and family, to work, and to learn. It’s more important than ever to learn to recognize a threat before it has the chance to infect your system.
In the Mind of the Hacker
The first step to understanding how hackers work is recognizing that they’re trying to get into your heart and mind as well as your computer. Their goal is to exploit your anxieties in the hope that you will think before you act.
The hacker is going to prey on your feelings of uncertainty, fear, and isolation. So watch out for emails, websites, ads, apps, or other content that claims to offer coronavirus tests or miracle cures. Likewise, be wary of sites soliciting charitable donations or offering financial support including resources for expediting your stimulus check.
Never click on any link in messages, apps, or sites that you have not verified, particularly if these messages have reached you unsolicited. Instead, always go directly to the source, such as the IRS.gov website or the verified and secure websites of reputable charities.
The threat isn’t just about the unsolicited content coming to you. It’s also about what you’re putting out into the world online. With tens of millions of Americans unexpectedly jobless, and nearly the entire country on lockdown, people are having to take their job search online. That, again, is prime fodder for the fraudsters.
If you are on the digital job hunt, it’s more important than ever to ramp up your cyber-safety game. That means being very cognizant of where you post your resume and other private information. In addition, ensure that you understand the company or site’s privacy practices.
If you are asked for a digital signature as a part of an application process, be sure you understand what you’re signing, just as you would for any paper document. That should include understanding how your prospective employer or employment agency will display and use your information.
Our world, country, and even families are wounded, in crisis, and perhaps more fragile than they have ever been. In this time of fear and uncertainty, the last thing you need to worry about is ensuring that your privacy is protected and your online systems are secure, but we’re not fighting just one unseen enemy right now. We’re fighting two. Hackers stand ready to exploit a world in pain to enrich themselves on the suffering of others.
That is why it is so important to understand the risks and to be proactive. This includes recognizing how unscrupulous these criminals are. They have no guilt or shame and understand the fear, uncertainty, and panic that has gripped our nation. Hackers know precisely what to do to turn that to their advantage.
This means being on guard for unsolicited emails and instant messages, wary of websites and apps promising miracle cures and at-home tests, and on the lookout for financial scams, from fake charities soliciting your donations to scam sites promising to get your aid money to you sooner.
Finally, it means being vigilant about the information you provide online, especially if you are looking for work. Be careful when signing any document electronically, and make sure that you understand how your information will be used and who can access it.