How criminals exploit the COVID-19 crisis

352.- baixaA few weeks ago, Europol published a report on the types of criminal activities being used to exploit the COVID-19 crisis.

The current crisis, unprecedented in the history of the European Union, has seen the Member States enacting various lockdown measures, including travel restrictions and limitations to public life, to combat the spread of the virus. These measures are designed to support public health systems, safeguard the economy and to ensure public order and safety.

The EU has identified several factors which, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, have led to changes in crime and terrorism, and impacted on the internal security of the EU. They are as follows:

  • High demand for certain goods, protective gear and pharmaceutical products.
  • Decreased mobility and flow of people across and into the EU.
  • Limitations to public life will make some criminal activities less visible and displace them to home or online settings.
  • Citizens remain at home and are increasingly teleworking, relying on digital solutions.
  • Increased anxiety and fear that may create vulnerability to exploitation.
  • Decreased supply of certain illicit goods in the EU.

The global pandemic of COVID-19 is not only a serious health issue but also a serious cybersecurity risk. Criminals swiftly took advantage of the virus proliferation and are abusing the demand people have for information and supplies.

Criminals have used the COVID-19 crisis to carry out social engineering attacks, namely phishing emails through spam campaigns and more targeted attempts such as business email compromise (BEC).

There is a long list of cyber-attacks against organisations and individuals, including phishing campaigns that distribute malware via malicious links and attachments, and execute malware and ransomware attacks that aim to profit from the global health concern.

Information received from law enforcement partners strongly indicates increased online activity by those seeking child abuse material. Mostly because offenders expect children to be more vulnerable due to isolation, with less supervision and more online exposure.

During the coming months, it’s expected that the potential for financial damage to citizens, businesses and public organisations will increase. Criminals have also adapted investment scams to elicit speculative investments in stocks related to COVID-19 with promises of substantial profits.

And it’s highly likely that criminals will adapt fraud schemes in order to exploit the post-pandemic situation. Once again, the elderly are more likely to be vulnerable to scams. Fraudsters will seek to approach victims at home by pretending to be law enforcement or social/healthcare officials offering testing for COVID-19 in an attempt to enter homes and steal valuables.


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