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Fearware in the times of COVID-19 pandemic

Fraudsters have stepped up cyberattacks taking advantage of the fear over the coronavirus, and there is a new term in the officialdom to describe the malware: Fearware.

There are more than 3,000 new web sites related to Covid-19 with several hundred of them being fake, either with dangerous content or incorrect information, officials at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said.

“The cyber attackers are exploiting the fear of the coronavirus to cause the victim to fall prey to cyberattacks,” said an official.

There is one map on the pandemic’s spread which has a malware to steal passwords from computers, this official said. “The hackers are releasing new computing viruses and mobile applications relating to Covid-19 updates and other information. They are also designing phishing websites, emails and phishing UPI accounts in the name of Covid-19, which are leading to cyber frauds.”

The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) was targeted by cybercriminals using similar-looking UPI addresses. There were also fake emails claiming to be from the World Health Organization targeting online users.

SMiShing is emerging as growing threat during the pandemic, said a second official. SMiShing is where a fraudster tries to trick online users into giving private information via a text or SMS message.

The cyber coordination wing at the MHA has identified an application ‘Quick Support’ which asks for passwords and credit and debit card details. “Once the app is downloaded, the user is asked to enter 6 digits of card, CVV, ATM PIN. Once the details are entered, the amount is debited fraudulently,” it said.

―Digital Dhanbad

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