Phishing and malware attacks rise as SA goes into COVID-19 lockdown

hacking data breach response plan pixabay iammrrob

As South Africa prepares for a national lockdown, there’s another pressing threat for remote workers to think about alongside COVID-19: digital security.

Cybersecurity firm KnowBe4 has seen an increase in remote phishing scams inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company notes as the pandemic evolved, it has seen three distinct waves of phishing attacks.

“The first wave brought phishing attacks offering basic information about the pandemic as well as spam/scam emails pushing questionable products and services,” it said.

Most of these were disguised as notices from WHO and the CDC.

“The second wave brought new and novel phishes that saw cyber criminals trying new approaches to trick users into clicking through to malicious content,” it added.

“Now in the third wave, our researchers report seeing repurposed standard phishing templates turned into coronavirus-related phishing scams.”

Security firm Kaspersky has noticed a similar rise in malware attacks this month too.

“Kaspersky statistics show a sharp spike in network attacks in South Africa between 15 and 21 March 2020 — with affected devices increasing in number from the 20 000 — 30 000 average to peak at approximately 310 000 over these few days,” the company announced in a release on Wednesday.

kaspersky attacks sa 2020

Image: Kaspersky

That’s a ten-fold increase in a matter of days.

“Such a spike recorded, although temporary, leads us to believe that cybercriminals have keenly been focused on the region given the current circumstances — have been on the lookout for vulnerable devices to exploit — and likely due to the rapid increase in remote working protocols that have been initiated during this timeframe, especially since the growth in attacks continued until the weekend,” said Kaspersky’s Maher Yamout, senior researcher at the company’s global research team.

The company believes those working remotely are primary targets.

South Africa’s national lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19 will begin in the late evening on Thursday 26 March. The first day of the lockdown will be Friday.

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Feature image: iammrrob via Pixabay

Andy Walker, former editor


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