TECHNOLOGY, especially access to the internet and social media, has been a saving grace for many during this containment phase in combating the Covid-19. But this scenario has also provided an opportunity for malicious groups to exploit the situation and launch cyberattacks.
“Right now, everyone is heavily reliant on their laptops or mobile phones to conduct their everyday needs such as online banking, shopping or donating to causes and charities. Criminals are not afraid to take advantage of that,” warned Tan Kim Chuan, Head of Forensic at KPMG in Malaysia.
“Those with ill intent are playing on the uncertainty of the situation coupled with isolation from social distancing to spread fake news and trick people into divulging their online banking details. Just one careless step could lead someone into becoming a victim of fraud and losing more in what is already a difficult situation,” he added.
An increase in Covid-19 themed phishing lures, high-risk fake domains and scams prove that cybercriminals are changing their modus operandi in order to manipulate fear and target individuals and businesses in a variety of ways.
— According to CyberSecurity Malaysia, an estimated 838 incidents were reported from the start of the Movement Control Order on March 18 up till April 7, with most of the incidents involving fraud, intrusion and cyberharassment.
— In March, it was reported that the authorities had opened 393 investigation papers (IPs) involving online sales of face masks as well as fraudulent withdrawals of Employees Provident Fund (EPF) savings with total losses incurred reaching RM3 mil.
— On April 2, Malaysia’s National Cyber Security Agency (NACSA) was informed of a malicious Android mobile app and a fraudulent website claiming to be from the Perdana Menteri’s Office to trick victims into submitting their internet banking details. The app also had the capability to read mobile phone SMSes, which could be used to steal victim online banking credentials and TAC codes.¹
According to Tan, cybercrimes and scams have been successful because of their simplicity and it doesn’t require complicated countermeasures to prevent cyber incidents. Some practical and logical preventive steps include:
1. Don’t install applications from untrusted sources. Look out for official announcements and only install apps from the Google Play or Apple App Store.
2. Beware of freeware video conferencing apps. Some of these apps were developed for ease of use, rather than with security and privacy features enabled by default. Require passwords for all meetings, never share your meeting IDs and enable waiting rooms to prevent any unwanted ‘bombers’.
3. Never click on unverified links in emails or text messages.
4. Do not open untrusted attachments.
5. Verify the legitimacy of sources before responding to any text message or voice calls asking for personal or sensitive information.
6. Report any related incident to the proper authorities via https://www.mycert.org.my/.
During this time when negligence or carelessness could accidentally open doors to an unwanted cyber breach or financial loss, it isn’t only individuals who are at risk but also organisations that need to remain vigilant.
“With the abrupt transition to remote working as a result of the Movement Control Order (MCO), companies are rolling out new remote working and cloud infrastructure at pace and forced to implement ad-hoc security models and approaches to secure that infrastructure.
“Yet on the other side, we also observe how organised crime has responded rapidly to the crisis by orchestrating large-scale campaigns to defraud customers and businesses,” Tan explained.
Hence, as an immediate measure, companies should focus on embedding pragmatic remote working security controls to deal with Covid-19 themed threats. This includes implementing the following measures at minimum, in order to protect their business and remain resilient:
1. Educate your employees and third-party contractors on working remotely, and various risks such as the proper procedures when connecting organisation devices to public WiFi.
2. Provide a mechanism for employees and third-party contractors to easily report any phishing, vishing or smishing attempts.
3. Quickly deploy cloud-based solutions to prevent and detect phishing attempts and update employees and third-party contractors about latest related developments. — April 21, 2020, Bernama