The second wave of Covid-19 has left people gasping for air. There is a shortage of medicines and hospitals are running out of oxygen choking people to death. Amid this gloomy and depressing scenario, instances of cyber frauds are also on the rise as they look to capitalise on the helplessness of people who are desperately looking for critical lifesaving medicines for their loved ones.
The pandemic has irrevocably changed the world, and even left the traditional criminals jobless, fueling a shift towards cybercrime.
“Cybercrime now reveals a totally different face of hacker targets, methods of frauds. Basically, there has been a significant rise observed in the number of cyber incidents in the last year as the fraudsters explicitly exploit the Covid crisis,” said Sanjay Kaushik, MD, Netrika Consulting.
Bharti Airtel’s CEO Gopal Vittal, in a letter to subscribers, said: “There has been a massive increase in cyber frauds. And as usual, fraudsters are always finding new ways to trick you.”
With the rapid increase in cyber frauds, there is a need to exercise caution as now people across age groups including senior citizens have adopted digital payments. “So many incidents have been happening across the country so one should be careful while making payment to an unknown person,” said S K Sethi, author of the book “1 Cyber Attack Can Ruin You Forever”.
Various kinds of requests are being seen on WhatsApp groups as people are ready to pay a higher price for medicine or oxygen cylinder. Sethi gives an example of the recent incident he came to know about at Greater Kailash 2 in New Delhi on 28 April 2021. He received the message which read as follows: “Dear all please be careful while ordering medicines and paying in advance. We got cheated today, the person charged us the money through Airtel money and switched off the phones and blocked us. He spoke so genuine in conversation that we believed in him. He said only take an injection if you genuinely need it .. fraud alert !! We paid got cheated .. he may operate from other numbers from tomorrow!! Please be extra careful take all the details and pay only when you get stuff in your hand. I am feeling heartbroken since I arranged it for my sister in law and she badly needs the injection Remdisiver. He has blocked us and deleted his WhatsApp. Please be extra careful and vigilant. We did a mistake, sharing our bad experience for caution.”
Kaushik said, “The attack surface has completely changed with everything/everyone going online. There is a huge list of frauds and categories, and some of the newer ones that evolved more with the pandemic are:
• Covid-themed emails distributing malware and Trojans (especially banking trojans). The trojan is a kind of malware disguised as legitimate software.
• Increase in newly registered Covid themed domains and cloned websites.
• Attack disguised as Covid news or charity pleas for Donations, Investments etc.
• Cyber-attacks on healthcare (hospitals/pharma companies), for high-value compromises.
• Proliferation of fraudulent mobile applications, masquerading legitimate ones.
• Fake sales channels, selling counterfeits and collecting advance fees.
• Use of fake maps and benefit schemes to spread malware and scrape data.
• Increased credential thefts (accounts on Social Media & Collaboration tools) and sales on the dark web
• Ransomware designed to lockout critical systems in an attempt to extort payments
• Increased phishing email campaigns targeting specific industries, groups, countries etc
With the rise in cyber frauds, it is time to be vigilant and exercise caution.
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