While the world has been focused on managing the healthcare, economic and social consequences of the novel coronavirus, a war has been quietly raging as cybercriminals leverage the crisis to escalate their activities. According to a new Mimecast report – titled 100 Days of Coronavirus – that tracks cybercrime activity since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the volume of malicious and opportunistic cybercrime across all types of cybercrime has increased significantly by 33% in the period January to March 2020. The report provides a clear picture of how malicious actors are exploiting opportunities and provides a detailed analysis of all the trends across various regions, seen by the Mimecast Threat Intelligence team.
The new report has found that, in the period January to March 2020, monthly volumes of:
- Spam and opportunistic cybercrime detections increased by 26.3%,
- Impersonation fraud detections increased by 30.3%,
- Malware detections increased by 35.16%, and
- Blocking URL clicks increased by 55.8%, meaning people are more likely now to click on unsafe links than before the outbreak.
Carl Wearn, head of e-crime at Mimecast, said, “Many employees that suddenly find themselves working from home, are not sufficiently equipped or aware of cyber threats and may put their organisations at risk by engaging in unsafe behaviour. Considering the rise in threats and unsafe clicks as shown by the report, there is an urgent need for organisations to step up their cybersecurity awareness training efforts to ensure employees have the tools and knowledge to avoid risky online behaviour.”
In addition, over 115 000 Covid-19 related spoof domains that are designed to steal personal information have been detected since January. When focusing on detections on Middle East and North Africa, the Threat Intelligence team found notable increases in malware and spam in the region. “In February and March, as the coronavirus started spreading in several of these countries, we saw a 22% increase in malware and a 36% increase in spam. Most interestingly was a 751% increase in unsafe clicks by users over the three-month period. This is likely an indication of people letting their guards down and desperate to learn more, as communication channels were flooded with information – both legitimate and fake – about the virus,” says Wearn.
“Given the continuing uncertainty over our immediate future and the impact of the virus on various communities, threat actors and cybercriminals are likely to continue to exploit the situation and to evolve their methods according to the current news cycle – with potentially disastrous consequences for unwary employees and organisations,” concluded Wearn.