Pandemic: 'Normal' Crime Drops While Cyber Crime Jumps

The lockdown has been introduced in the US, China, Italy, Ireland, France, Spain, the UK and dozens of other regions and countries around the world. The coronavirus crisis has led to a drop in traditional recorded crime, by as much as 20% in some areas, however, home-working has led to an increase in cyber criminals exploiting individuals and businesses.

More people working at home using the Internet and possibly facing financial problems due to jobs losses and employees being placed on furlough, mean that the public are more vulnerable to online fraud, domestic violence and child abuse are all crimes which may see an increase during the coronavirus pandemic.

Phishing is a type of cyber-attack in which scammers send malicious messages that appear to be from a trusted source. The purpose of these messages is to get the recipient to hand over login details or infect their system with malware. The scammers do this by including a link that replicates a genuine website or attaching an infected file to the message. These scams are usually delivered by email, but they can also occur on social media, by text or over the phone. 

Coronavirus-related attacks come at a time of increasing cyber-crime, with the number of such offences reported to the National Fraud Office jumping from 273,598 to 306,126 between 2017 and 2018.

The British National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said it has uncovered emerging tactics from hackers including sending fake emails purporting to be from popular video conferencing services such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

People are also warned to be wary of false coronavirus tracker apps that claim to let people see if there have been outbreaks in their area but instead infect devices with malware.

Similarly, there is a growing trend of cyber-attacks on British financial services firms, with the UK Financial Conduct Authority reporting last year a 480% year-on-year increase in the number of regulated firms targeted. 

According to email fraud security specialist Proofpoint, cyber criminals have also been using coronavirus as a means of manipulating users through fraudulent activity. Since 29 January, Proofpoint has recorded 500,000 messages, 300,000 malicious URLs and 200,000 malicious attachments with coronavirus themes across more than 140 campaigns.

Sophisticated techniques using artificial intelligence are becoming more common, and leading to a rise in targeted phishing campaigns. Crimes such as house break-ins and vehicle thefts have fallen 'significantly' because offenders are stuck at home as part of the effort to control the spread of Covid-19.

In many countries, governments are promising money to get citizens through the economic crisis sparked by the pandemic, but many of the programmes aren't fully set up yet, leaving people in the dark on how to connect to the cash. In Canada, there are reports of fraudulent text messages promising to link the recipients to government funds with the aim of getting bank details from the unsuspecting victims. 

Europol has identified cyber-crime, fraud, counterfeit goods and organised property crime as categories of particular concern.

Proofpoint:       Investment Week:     ITGovernance:     Yorkshire Post:     

Lancashire Telegraph:    Guardian:    Euronews:      Wired:     Leicester Mercury

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