Be careful! Covid-19 pandemic brings new crime dynamics
March 29th, 2020 at 3:42 pm
Be careful! Covid-19 pandemic brings new crime dynamics

By Nazrul Islam;

At a time when almost the entire world responded to the call of humanity to face one of the toughest situations for mankind in decades due to coronavirus pandemic, crooks are not sitting idle. They have been devising new ways to cheat the people across the board taking advantage of the desperation for an anti-dote against the bug.

Thus, be careful! You may be the next target of the global frauds, and respond in a way that you don’t get trapped.

The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation or Europol has just issued an alert after many of its member states reported social engineering attacks, business e-mail compromise, money theft, child abuse and attack on health infrastructures, supply chain tampering and sell of counterfeit products among others.

Cyber attack photo

Criminals have quickly seized the opportunities opened up due to the virus attack to exploit the crisis by adapting to newer modes of operation or brainstorming to find new criminal activities, Catherine De Bolle, executive director of Europol, said in a report released on Friday.  

“Organised crime groups are notoriously flexible and adaptable and their capacity to exploit this crisis means we need to be constantly vigilant and prepared,” she said. 

People in every corner of the world are vulnerable to these threat with access to the internet through the availability of information communication technologies. Therefore, you at this part of the world are not protected unless higher level of caution are maintained at the time of global pandemic-triggered lockdown.

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

Criminals 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.

Novel coronavirus

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.

It is advised that none should open attachments, e-mails or any other documents sent or forwarded to your phone, e-mail or social media accounts from unknown sources.

The Europol says information indicates increased online activity by those seeking child abuse material.

“This is consistent with postings in dedicated forums and boards by offenders welcoming opportunities to engage with children whom they expect to be more vulnerable due to isolation, less supervision and greater online exposure,” the report says.

The pandemic has an impact on Darkweb, overlay networks that use the Internet but require specific software, configurations, or authorization to access, operations.

Catherine De Bolle

Certain illicit goods will become more expensive, as source materials become unavailable. Vendors on the Darkweb offer special corona goods (scam material) at discounts.

The agency fear that the number of cyber-attacks are expected to rise despite the fact that it recorded significant number of them ever-since the lockdown situation began last month.

“Cybercriminals will continue to innovate in the deployment of various malware and ransomware packages themed around the COVID-19 pandemic. They may expand their activities to include other types of online attacks,” warned the enforcement agency.

The criminals are likely to seek to exploit an increasing number of attack vectors as a greater number of employers adopt telework and allow connections to their organisations’ systems.

Attack on critical health infrastructure was also reported by the agency.

Brno University Hospital of Czechia, where a state of emergency was imposed on March 12, was attacked amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe.

The incident prompted the hospital to postpone urgent surgeries and reroute new acute patients to a nearby alternative hospital. The hospital was forced to shut down its entire IT network during the incident and two of the hospital’s other branches, the Children’s Hospital and the Maternity Hospital, were also affected.

These types of attack during a public health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic are particularly threatening and carry very real risks to human lives.

Fraud

Fraudsters have been very quick to adapt well-known schemes to target individual citizens, businesses and public organisations. These include various types of adapted versions of telephone fraud schemes, supply scams and decontamination scams. The activities of fraudsters will continue to target an increasing number of victims across the EU to exploit anxieties as the crisis persists.

Counterfeit goods

The distribution of counterfeit and/or sub-standard goods has been a key area of criminal activity in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the report.

The sale of counterfeit healthcare and sanitary products as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) and counterfeit pharmaceutical products has increased manifold since the outbreak of the crisis.

The advertisement and sale of these items take place both on and offline. Some developments, such as the distribution of fake corona home testing kits, are particularly worrying from a public health perspective.

The sale of counterfeit and/or sub-standard goods on and offline is booming in the pandemic economy.

mask

Property crime

Various types of schemes involving thefts associated with organised property crime have been adapted by criminals to exploit the current situation.

This includes the well-known ‘nephew’ or ‘grandchild’ trick and scams involving the impersonation of representatives of public authorities.

Commercial premises and medical facilities are expected to be increasingly targeted for organised burglaries. The level of activity of criminals involved in organised property crime is expected to further increase during the crisis.

Concerns are there that the closure of establishments offering legal sex work may increase the number of incidents of sexual exploitation.

Bangladeshi journalist
Nazrul Islam is a journalist based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The writer can be reached by e-mail ; [email protected]