State-backed hackers exploiting coronavirus outbreak

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American and British cybersecurity officials warn state-backed hackers and online criminals are taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak to further operations, echoing concerns by digital safety experts.

A joint advisory published on Wednesday by the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency and Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre said while the overall volume of malicious activity does not appear changed, hackers of all varieties were leveraging anxiety around the disease outbreak to push people into clicking links and downloading attachments.

“Bad actors are using these difficult times to exploit and take advantage of the public and business,” Bryan Ware, CISA’s assistant director for cybersecurity, said in a statement.

The agencies warned hackers were exploiting a growing demand for work-from-home solutions passing off malicious tools as remote collaboration software produced by Zoom and Microsoft. Hackers also target virtual private networks allowing an increasing number of employees to connect to their offices, the agencies said.

The cybersecurity industry has been sounding the alarm for weeks over coronavirus-themed malicious software and booby-trapped emails threats.

In a blog post, Microsoft executive Rob Lefferts said there was an uptick in the success rate for hackers.

The media was “all COVID-19, all the time,” Lefferts said. “It’s overwhelming and attackers know it. They know many are clicking without looking because stress levels are high and they’re taking advantage.”