Did Global Lockdowns Trigger A Cybercrime Boom?

COVID-19 has seen a significant target shift in cybercrime, from individuals and small businesses to major corporations, governments, and critical infrastructure.

The Secretary-General of INTERPOL Jürgen Stock stated, “Cybercriminals are developing and boosting their attacks at an alarming pace, exploiting the fear and uncertainty caused by the unstable social and economic situation created by COVID-19. The increased online dependency for people around the world is also creating new opportunities, with many businesses and individuals not ensuring their cyber defences are up to date.”

For example, in one four-month period (January to April), some 907,000 spam messages, 737 incidents related to the malware and 48,000 malicious URLs — all associated with COVID-19 – were detected by one of INTERPOL’s private sector partners. This article will break down more specifically how these crimes have manifested themselves and how to keep yourself safe. 

Disruptive Malware 

Destructive malware is malicious software capable of rendering affected systems inoperable and challenging reconstitution. In the first two weeks of April 2020, there was a spike in ransomware attacks by multiple threat groups, which had been relatively dormant before then. These attacks are most common against infrastructure organisations and health care institutions. This is because they yield higher financial benefits due to their essential work. 

Data Harvesting Malware 

Data harvesting has always been a big issue in regard to cybercrime. Malware such as Remote Access Trojan, info stealers, spyware and banking Trojans have only increased during Covid-19. Sometimes criminals have even used COVID-19 related information to scam people to infiltrate vulnerable networks. 

Malicious Domains 

Naturally, there has been an increased demand for information on COVID-19 and crucial medical supplies. This has led to a massive increase in registered domain names related to the virus.  However, not all of these registered websites are what they seem. From February to March 2020, a 569% growth in high-risk registrations were detected. These fraudulent websites underpin various malicious activities, including C2 servers, malware deployment and phishing.


And finally, the last area of cybercrime that has boomed is misinformation. In short, it is the circulation of false information on the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Speaking to CEO of Spacehuntr Dietrich Moens, he said, “Misinformation might not seem like a crime, but this misinformation has led to fraudulent medical commodities. It’s led to scams via mobile text messages containing disingenuous offers that are becoming worryingly more sophisticated all the time.”

How to Stay Safe Online

We all think it will never happen to us, but everyone is a potential target. 

  • Keep software up to date: Turn on automatic software updates to ensure you run the latest versions
  • Keep up to date with anti-virus protection: Ensure your firewall is enabled for added security
  • Don’t be caught out by scams: Think before clicking on links or attachments or installing applications, even if they look familiar, check they come from a trusted source
  • Use strong passwords: Use strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts and devices. And never share them. Check the National Cyber Security Centre website for more ‘stay safe’ information
  • Backup your data: Office 365 (OneDrive, Sharepoint, Teams), your Warwick shared drive or H: Drive are all suitable places to back up your files. Remember also to keep the backups secure
  • Protect mobile devices: Keep anything with professional or personal data on it secure at all times — things like laptops, tablets, phones. Enable authentication via passcodes and fingerprints
  • Lock your devices: Always secure your devices — physically and digitally. Safe storage, locked screens and encrypted drives reduce the risk of valuable or private information being lost or stolen.
  • Stay informed: Visit our security news on site for all the latest articles on Security and Information Management. Share information and awareness with friends
  • Review information with care: A new website will soon be available to provide a single, easy-to-find location for the latest updates, important information and guidance on Information Management, Governance and Security

Vulnerabilities from working from home will continue to be an issue going forward, so coronavirus-themed online scams and phishing campaigns will leverage public concern about the pandemic. The attack on business emails is also one of the biggest forecasted worries going into 2022.