Virtual Social Distancing From Hackers in Times of the Pandemic

Many companies, schools, and families across the globe are relying on communications forums such as Zoom. The growing popularity of the videoconferencing platform has come at the price of “Zoom-bombing.” Hackers entering Zoom calls to create chaos have become a common occurrence in the past few weeks. Lately, Zoom-bombers disrupted classes at the University of Southern California, targeting Jewish students with threats and swamping meetup groups with racial comments. In response to the rising Zoom-bombing attacks, the video communications company recently announced new product updates to address cybersecurity issues and protect its users from cyberattacks.

Besides zoom-bombing, hackers are diving deep into different types of cyberattacks such as email phishing, SMS phishing, ransomware attacks, mobile malware, and much more in these times of COVID-19 global crisis.

A Matter of Concern


  • The NCSC observed several emails deploying the “Agent Tesla” keylogger malware, which seemed to be sent from the WHO. Besides Agent Tesla, most of the coronavirus-related phishing emails are received with NetWire and LokiBot enclosed as attachments, which are empowering hackers to swindle personal as well as financial data.
  • Recently, a series of SMS messages leveraged a UK government-themed lure to gather email, name, address, and banking information. Purporting to be from the “UKGOV”, these SMS messages contained a link to the phishing site. 
  • INTERPOL has detected a substantial increase in the number of ransomware attacks against key organizations and infrastructure involved in dealing with coronavirus. 
  • Recently, a team of Check Point’s researchers discovered 16 different malicious apps, disguising as legitimate coronavirus apps, which carried various malware. These malware aimed at stealing critical user information or driving fraudulent revenues from premium services.
  • Recently, Europol arrested a man in Singapore who was masquerading as a legitimate organization that claimed quick supply and delivery of FFP2 surgical masks, hand sanitizers, and other medical products that have become invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • fil24[.]xyz, a malicious website, uncovered by Cybereason’s team claimed to provide a wide variety of approved VPN installers and installers for programs such as Instagram and Facebook.

The Government Agencies are Trying to Keep Pace


  • In order to control SMS phishing, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have collaboratively issued security guidelines.
  • CISA has issued alerts for enterprise VPN security, urging organizations CISA to install the latest security patches and configurations on their VPNs. The cybersecurity agency also advised ensuring multi-factor authentication on all VPN connections to increase security.
  • Taking an action against such ransomware threats, INTERPOL has issued a ‘purple notice’ alerting police departments in all its 194 member countries.

How Can You Shield Yourself Against the Coronavirus Cyberattacks?

Cyber actors are constantly developing their strategies to capitalize on the latest situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Realizing the frequency of malware and ransomware attacks, individuals and organizations should remain hypervigilant.

While dealing with coronavirus-themed emails and text messages enclosing links to fake websites, individuals and organizations need to keep in mind the security guidelines issued by the NCSC, ASD, CISA, and DHS.

In general, individuals can maintain virtual social distancing and keep away from opening links or attachments in unsolicited emails. Also, avoid making meetings public to prevent videoconference hijacking, and ensure that your meetings are password protected.