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Malware and COVID-19: What You Need to Know

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, hackers have been exploiting the public's worst fears and the need to seek relevant information from public health entities. The FBI reports that coronavirus related scams are dramatically on the rise.

Bad actors have been using the pandemic to spread malware and trick people into clicking on phishing emails and nefarious links across the internet.

Although many guidelines are available from public health agencies on best practices, we would like to offer guidance on internet safety and hygiene during the coronavirus outbreak.

We've published our response to COVID-19, along with a collection of helpful resources. You can access those resources by visiting our COVID-19 resources page or by clicking here.

In this blog, I'll take a closer look at malware that's being spread around amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Stay safe and secure online with the following informative tidbits.

Hawkeye malware

It can be very common to receive multiple emails from the "World Health Organization," but it's usually someone just trying to install a keylogger in your system.

This malware has recently been discovered. It's called "Hawkeye." In essence, a keylogger is a type of malware that records all your keystrokes when using a computer. Not only that, but it can also take screenshots of what is appearing on your screen. This information is then sent to a hacker remotely.

This malware can be associated with any type of executable file. It can be easily installed with a title such as "COVID-19Cure.exe," which seems like an authentic file to some people. 

Phishing emails

If you receive an email that informs you about a cure, remedy for COVID-19, or anything along those lines, please read it carefully as it is more than likely a phishing email.

In a nutshell, phishing emails contain nefarious links infected with malware. They are used again and again by hackers, hoping to trick an unsuspecting person. While it's one of the most common tactics used, it's also one of the most effective ways hackers can breaking into a computer network. 

All it takes is for one employee to click on a phishing email for an entire IT system to get infiltrated. We strongly advise conducting cybersecurity training to help your team know how to be vigilant online. You should also ensure that all conferencing or audio-visual products are correctly installed, configured, and updated. Nowadays, it's more important to be extra cautious. We wrote about security for telecommuting in this previous blog post. 

My four tips to help keep you safe

  1. Be curious. Check any email out thoroughly, when in doubt. Make sure it's coming from someone legitimate and not a bad actor.
  2. Be careful. When downloading any attachments or files, please run them through some type of virus checker. Virustotal.com is entirely free and can save you a considerable headache.  The best bet is to install a reputed anti-virus software package on your computer.
  3. Install a local proxy. On my home network, I run a DNS/Mail server off my raspberry pi for advertisements and any emails that I may have coming in. There are many privacy benefits to having a local proxy. For instance, you can block advertising or filter out malicious websites or access geo blocked content. Some steps that you can take to install a local proxy is acquiring a Raspberry Pi. They generally run between 30$-80$ depending on what gadgets you get along with it. This device will act as your proxy server. You will also need the following: an IP address, a port number for your proxy server, and a username and password. Once you have that, you enter a couple of commands into the terminal, reboot and your local proxy server is ready to go! When I installed mine, it took less than 45 mins to get everything up and running.
  4. Stay up to date. It's hard to know everything that's going on out there and how to prevent a breach, so it's easy to fall behind. Make sure all your computers are updated to the latest version of Windows, Linux, or Mac.  Make sure that all your software is updated regularly, including your anti-virus software.

My final thoughts

While you are practicing social distancing to stay safe and protect others, you should also practice some type of "cyber social distancing" when using the internet.

The world is in a state of panic, and hackers are in full force preying on people. It's completely wrong, and we can't change their behavior. However, we can empower ourselves. What we can do is stay informed and vigilant while online.

You should do everything in your power to reduce risky activity and stop bad actors. Remember daily to not click on links from a strange email or message. Taking a moment to resist the urge to click or open a document can save your business and your family's home network from a cybercriminal invasion.

During a time of crisis, hackers plug away to do as much damage as possible. Make sure you wear your metaphorical gloves and face masks on the internet because it can get viral!

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Randy Rodriguez
Randy Rodriguez

Randy Rodriguez is a Junior Security Consultant. He has earned his Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), and Cyber Security Professional (CSP) certifications. Currently, he is attending Florida International University for his bachelor's in computer engineering. For 24By7Security, he provides HIPAA HITECH solutions, security risk assessments, health information technology Reports, security best practices, and holistic compliance measures to help hospitals and physicians. In addition, he is a member of the South Florida Chapter of the Information Systems Security Association.

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