Scammer alert: Israeli cybersecurity firm warns COVID-19 phishing attacks rising

Check Point reports large number of new website registrations, many of which are disguised to look like those of government agencies providing financial relief

Illustrative image of a computer hacker using a smartphone. (stevanovicigor; iStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative image of a computer hacker using a smartphone. (stevanovicigor; iStock by Getty Images)

An Israeli cybersecurity firm on Monday warned of a recent rise in online scams attempting to take advantage of people seeking financial relief amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Many of these scams involved phishing through web pages designed to look government websites that require people to fill in their personal information, according to a report by Check Point.

The company said there has been a large rise since March in domain registrations of websites relating to coronavirus stimulus packages and financial relief, dozens of which it flagged as malicious and hundreds more as suspicious.

The week in mid-March that the US government proposed sending stimulus checks to Americans saw a particularly “major increase” in new domain registrations, it said.

“These scam websites use the news of the coronavirus (COVID-19) financial incentives, and fears about coronavirus to try and trick people into using the websites or clicking on links,” a statement from Check Point said, warning that visitors to these sites “risk having their personal information stolen and exposed, or payment theft and fraud.”

Check Point also said there has been a significant rise in cyberattacks over the past few weeks.

It did not identify who was behind these attacks.

Earlier this month, US and British cybersecurity agencies warned that foreign government-backed hacking groups were using coronavirus themes to worm their way into computers and networks.

The groups were sending phishing emails and setting up websites with COVID-19 virus subjects, aiming to lure users to click on links that will expose their computers to penetration or introduce malware.

In addition, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency and Britain’s national Cyber Security Center said, hackers were trying to take advantage of the kinds of networking services millions of people are using to work from home, such as VPN tools and conferencing apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

AFP contributed to this report.

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