Whilst quite naturally the focus of the pandemic’s impact centred on the loss of life, a less obvious consequence was the opportunity it afforded criminals, who were quick to exploit weaknesses in hurriedly implemented work-from-home polices.

In addition, last year saw a dramatic increase in Coronavirus-themed domains, many of which will probably be used for phishing attempts, luring victims to their websites with virus information or through claims of selling PPE, face masks, home COVID testing equipment and even vaccines.

The increase is not a surprise perhaps, as various official bodies sought to disseminate important information, but it was estimated there was a 50% greater likelihood of these being malicious domains than others registered in the same period.

Japanese citizens suffered a Coronavirus-themed campaign in Q1 2020, when emails pretending to be sent by a Japanese welfare service provider contained malicious attachments infected with Emotet malware.

The phishing emails were designed to appear as if they contained important information about the spread of the virus in several Japanese cities. Victims were encouraged to open the attachment to discover the information, which immediately downloaded the virus to the victim’s computer.

In an alarming new approach, the originators of the Emotet malware offered it as the means by which other cybercriminals could install their malware onto the victim’s computer.

This is known as a ‘loader’ operation attack and it led to all manner of problems with various banking Trojans and ransomwares infecting systems. This way of infecting a network spreads laterally after gaining access to one or more devices in the network, which makes it a resilient malware.

Your home is not a castle

The majority of knowledge based businesses, quickly required their people to work from home, which ensured enterprise infrastructure and security was necessarily swapped for home Wi-Fi and virtual private networks (VPN), resulting in inadequate protections for businesses.

The pandemic has seen a significant increase in security breaches, notably EasyJet, SolarWinds, Microsoft and Npower, with remote workers reportedly responsible for breaches in 20% of organisations since the pandemic began.

Online shopping, although a growing trend, was given a dramatic push by the lockdowns rising from 20% of total retail sales in Jan 20 to 36% in Jan 2021, which also drove a surge in package deliveries and related scams.

Often an apparently innocent text message or email that contains a fake tracking link, which if clicked installs malware or directs the user to a website that attempts to coax personal information out of them.

It is clear that the switch to working from home due to the pandemic and associated lockdowns created new opportunities for criminals to prey on bored, isolated, unsupervised workers who were vulnerable to a sophisticated phishing campaign.

Criminals will exploit any event that offers the opportunity to utilise phishing emails and counterfeit websites to steal data and damage reputations. So it’s critical organisations remain vigilant, continue to raise awareness within their organisation of the phishing threat, whilst ensuring security measures are up to date and up to the job.

And if any doubts remain, please get in touch and we’ll talk you through the services Quiss provide to counter the threats your organisation faces from within and from without.