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Interpol issues COVID-19 cyberthreat warning

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Cybercrime has been going on for as long as the internet has existed, but now Interpol are warning users that specific attacks and attempts to undermine users, using COVID-19 as a cover, are increasing. 

The organisation warned that as a result of lowered defences because of the focus on the current health crisis, cybercriminals are taking the opportunity to trick users. 

Types of attacks becoming common

Malicious domains

Interpol has noted an increase in malicious domains which are using terms relating to the coronavirus to trick people into thinking they are legitimate. 

They use the term "COVID-19" and variations to entice people to click onto the site, before realising it is not what they were looking for. One click and it's too late because these sites are the locations from which spam campaigns and malware are spread.


Speaking of malware, cybercriminals are using the increased global communication strategies to their benefit as well. Malware, spyware and trojans are being detected in interactive coronavirus maps and websites. Spam emails are also tricking users into clicking and downloading malware onto their computers.  


The slightly more malicious cousin to malware, ransomware locks your computer before asking for a bribe to re-open. Interpol has seen an increase in hospitals, medical centres and public institutions being targeted in these kinds of attacks as criminals understand that locking these institutions out would be a critical hit at this time. 

How to protect yourself

Interpol have released recommendations for the public to protect themselves against these kinds of attacks. Since they morph and change as often as they are caught, a general sense of caution and skepticism goes a long way. 

Keep your information safe

  • Back up all your important files, and store them independently from your system (e.g. in the cloud, on an external drive);
  • Always verify you are on a company’s legitimate website before entering login details or sensitive information.

Check your software and systems

  • Ensure you have the latest anti-virus software installed on your computer and mobile devices;
  • Secure email gateways to thwart threats via spam;
  • Strengthen your home network;
  • Secure system administrations vulnerabilities that attackers could abuse;
  • Disable third-party or outdated components that could be used as entry points;
  • Download mobile applications or any other software from trusted platforms only;
  • Perform regular health scans on your computers or mobile devices.

Be vigilant

  • Talk to your family −including children − about how to stay safe online ;
  • Regularly check and update the privacy settings on your social media accounts;
  • Update your passwords and ensure they are strong (a mix of uppercase, lowercase, numbers and special characters);
  • Do not click on links or open attachments in emails which you were not expecting to receive, or come from an unknown sender;
  • As always, if you believe you are the victim of a crime, alert your local police.
Leila Stein

Leila Stein is an experienced multimedia journalist and content producer with a special interest in data journalism. she is skilled in news writing, editing, online writing and multimedia content production and have a Bachelor of Journalism  from Rhodes University and an Honours in Historical Studies from University of Cape Town.