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Interpol warns of ‘alarming’ rate of cyberattacks during pandemic

Trevor Mogg

Interpol has warned that the coronavirus pandemic has led to an “alarming” rate of cyberattacks as criminals focus increasingly on larger organizations by targeting staff working from home.

A report released by the international police agency on Thursday, August 4, said that since the start of the pandemic it has seen a “significant target shift from individuals and small businesses to major corporations, governments, and critical infrastructure.”

It said that while the spread of the coronavirus has led to more organizations and businesses setting up remote networks to enable their staff to work from home, online security measures are often not as robust as those in the workplace, making it easier for cybercriminals to cause disruption, steal data, and generate profits.

“Cybercriminals are developing and boosting their attacks at an alarming rate, exploiting the fear and uncertainty caused by the unstable social and economic situation created by COVID-19,” said Jurgen Stock, secretary-general of Interpol.

The organization says it has seen an uptick in many different types of attacks, including phishing, where a perpetrator sends someone a fake email in a bid to trick the victim into clicking on a malicious link — a scam that could lead to the target giving up sensitive information about their business.

Cybercriminals are also launching more attacks using ransomware, a method that locks a computer system until a sum of money is paid.

With the pandemic still the main focus of so many people’s lives, perpetrators are also changing their tactics by increasingly impersonating government and healthcare facilities in emails that attempt to trick their targets into clicking on a link that could ultimately lead to a malware or ransomware attack.

Interpol, which counts the U.S. among its 194 member states, has also warned that if a vaccine is developed, cybercriminals will likely try to use it to launch more attacks by referring to it in bogus emails.

Twitter recently suffered a major hack where some of its employees, who may have been working from home, were tricked into giving up vital information about its internal systems. Meanwhile, tech company Garmin experienced a ransomware attack last month that forced a server outage, causing major disruption to customers using Garmin Connect, the network that controls data syncs for its wearables and online apps. The Kansas-based company has reportedly since received a decryption key to recover its files, suggesting it may have paid a ransom that one report put at $10 million.

Interpol urged organizations and businesses to ensure they have effective online security measures in place or risk becoming the next victim as cybercriminals increase their activities during the pandemic.