Every time there's a huge global crisis, like the current COVID-19 outbreak, scammers and cyber criminals swoop in to exploit the situation. This is especially risky when businesses are forced to use more technology - making us more at risk from cyber crime such as data breaches, ransomware and other exploits.
According to the disarmament chief of the United Nations, there has been a 600% rise in malicious emails during COVID-19 and our increased dependency on digital technologies means that there is one cyber attack every 39 seconds. Additionally, there have been increased attacks on health care organisations and medical research facilities.
The most common type of scam is a fake email or SMS pretending to be from the health authorities, an example of which could be an enticing headline like 'Coronavirus alert in your area' or 'How to protect yourself from COVID-19'. Emails like these seem genuine, but often contain dangerous viruses or malware that can steal your data or block your computer outright. If you receive such an email, be very careful about downloading or opening any attachments that come with it.
Some emails or SMS's will ask you to share your passwords or banking information, to make a donation to fund research into a vaccine or help others in need. Remember, a legitimate health organisation or charity will never ask you for that kind of information in an SMS. If in doubt, it's a good idea just to call them to confirm if the email is genuine.
Your business partners, healthcare organisations and associations aren't safe from scammers either. A clever scam that is going around is an email pretending to be from their I.T support teams. Disguised as 'coronavirus awareness' messages, these emails try to get you to click on headlines like 'Attention! COVID-19 Update', promising information. The sneaky part is how they invite you to click a link to 'register' or 'sign up'. That's when they try to get your login and password. Again, if you get such an email, always check with your provider first, preferably by phone or a trusted direct email.
Email scams are one thing, online purchasing is another. Clever scammers are setting up fake online stores to sell protective gear like face masks and hand sanitisers. They know masks are in demand, and professionals will be keen to order discounted products online. Many people who fell for the scam have received counterfeit masks from these shady shops, and many more never received anything at all. The scammers simply stole their credit card info and disappeared, along with the fake website.
Fortunately, you don't have to be a techie to protect yourself and your practice. Just keep an eye out for any unusual emails with links or attachments and keep your apps updated. Never share sensitive info like logins, passwords, credit card or banking info online. This goes for SMS as well!
Just keep a calm and clear head, and regard any email or SMS asking for your personal or business details with a healthy degree of scepticism. Depending on your situation, it might be a good idea to look into getting cyber insurance as well. With a bit of basic digital hygiene and good judgement, we can ensure our own safety as well as the safety of the people who depend of us.
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Our advice is general in nature. To read the full General Advice Warning click here