Fake News Uses Coronavirus To Spread Malware

Cybercriminals are using fake email messages about coronavirus Covid-19 to spread the Emotet Trojan as well as other malware, according to a report released this week by Kaspersky

In Japan  the Emotet Trojan, a particularly damaging of malware that has been devastatingly effective, attacking governments and financial institutions. 

An email discovered by IBM found that cybercriminals were sending emails under the guise of being part of a disability welfare service provider in Japan. The emails falsely claim that there are reports of coronavirus patients in the Gifu, Tottori and Osaka prefectures in Japan, urging victims to read an attached Microsoft Word document which contains the Emotet Trojan. 

The messages are particularly dangerous because they were made to look like official government emails, equipped with legitimate addresses, phone numbers and emails.  

Malicious files disguised as documents relating to the coronavirus have also been spotted by Kaspersky’s threat detection technology, exploiting people’s fears of infection to spread malware and other cyber threats. The malicious files discovered by Kaspersky’s researchers were disguised as pdf, mp4 and docx files about the coronavirus. In each case the filenames implied that they contained useful information on how to protect yourself from the coronavirus, information on how to detect it, and news updates.

In reality, the files contained various threats including Trojans and worms capable of destroying, blocking, modifying or copying and exfiltrating personal data, as well as interfering with the victims’ computing equipment or networks.

Coronavirus
Coronaviruses are a family of respiratory infections that includes both mild illnesses such as the common cold and more serious ones such as Sars and Mers. The variant in question emerged in Hubei province in central China in December 2019. It has now spread to every other province of mainland China and several other countries, including Australia, France, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the US. The nature of coronaviruses and the difficulty of reporting cases accurately in some areas means the true number is probably unknown. The new coronavirus variant has now been named Covid-19 by the World Health Organisation.

Coronavirus News Used To Spread Malware
“The coronavirus, which is being widely discussed as a major news story, has already been used as bait by cyber criminals,” said Anton Ivanov, a malware analyst at Kaspersky. “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. As people continue to be worried for their health, we may see more malware hidden inside fake documents about the coronavirus being spread.”

High-profile events, news stories and offline threats are almost inevitably exploited by cyber criminals to spread malicious files or run scams on victims and often play on justified concerns. Already in 2020, criminal gangs have exploited the Travelex ransomware attack to conduct telephone scams. As always, users can take a number of simple steps to avoid falling victim to malicious files masquerading as legitimate content. 

Recipients should avoid clicking on unsolicited, suspicious links sent to them that claim to be exclusive content, rather than going direct to official sources for accurate and trustworthy information on the coronavirus. It is also advisableto look closely at the three letter file extension as legitimate documents and video files will rarely if ever be in .exe or .lnk formats.

Elsewhere in the industry, the coronavirus outbreak has also begun to affect the IT supply chain. In its most recent quarterly results announcement this week, Apple said it was working on contingency and mitigation plans to protect production facilities in Chinas.

Computer Weekly:        TechRepublic:        BankInfoSecurity

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