Online Security Amidst COVID-19 Part 4: The Emotional Side of COVID-19 Cyber Risks
- Pete Boergermann
Stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures have accelerated the adoption of digital technology and online platforms by the masses. From social media to video conferencing to Mobile Banking and telemedicine, these new ways to connect are not only convenient, but they’re becoming essential to everyday life.
Fraudsters and cybercriminals now have millions of potential new victims and multiple government agencies are reporting increases in this type of criminal activity. At C&N, we’ve invested in strong cyber-defense systems to protect our customers and we’ve built libraries of resources to share with you. Our goal is to help you stay informed & prepared so you can confidently enjoy the conveniences of modern technology.
Recent statistics show that cyber-attacks are up over 37% and phishing attempts have jumped by 600% in March due to COVID-19. This means that identifying online cybersecurity threats has become more important than ever as we continue to navigate the changes in our lives due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the fourth part of our “Safe&Secure: Online Security Amidst COVID-19” series, we’ll examine the tactics that cybercriminals use to catch you off guard to lure you into giving away your personal information.
How Scammers Try to Take Advantage of Your Emotions
One of the more widespread scams surrounding the Coronavirus involves spoofing emails from trusted sources. Here’s how they work:
- The scammer sends an email or text that looks like it’s from government bodies or health agencies pretending to offer coronavirus tips and advice.
- Once their victim believes they represent a source they trust, fraudsters try to draw on an emotion, such as fear, curiosity or greed, while trying to create a sense of urgency.
- If successful, this may lead the victim to click on a link or open an attachment that can contain malware, viruses, spyware or ransomware. Malware can record the keys typed on the keyboard, such as passwords, and this information will be sent to a hacker. Even worse, a demand for ransom payment may be received.
How can I prevent this from happening to me?
Knowing how to identify one of these scams is the best way to reduce your risk of an attack. Here are some things to look for anytime you receive an email, phone call or text message from a source you don’t know:
- If you receive an email that triggers an emotional reaction, stop and think. If you don’t know the source, do not click on any links or open any attachments. Delete the email.
- If you receive an email or text message and it sounds too good to be true, do not let your curiosity get the best of you. Do not click on any links.
- If you receive an email that claims it’s an urgent message and you have to act now, stop. This is a red flag.
- If you receive a phone call, text or email message that threatens you or causes you to act out of fear of something bad happening, stop. This is also a red flag.
Criminals know that they will have a higher success rate in stealing information and money if they can use our emotions against us. Be wary of anything that appears to be an emotional phone call, email or text message that has a COVID-19 theme to trick us into giving in to the suggestion to act. And during this time, it’s especially important to be suspicious of emails that urge you to take immediate action or accept offers of COVID-19 vaccines or cures. The best way to avoid falling victim to scams is to be aware of the current cybersecurity threats and not let your emotions cause you to act when you normally would not.
For more helpful articles and information about staying safe & secure online, visit our C&N Library. Also, look for the next part of our series, “Safe&Secure: Online Security Amidst COVID-19,” to be published soon.
Pete Boergermann joined C&N in 1998. In his role as the Director of Information Security, he is responsible for managing the information security program at C&N, while also championing IT security to make it a critical part of C&N’s business operations. Pete has previously served as Information Technology Manager/Information Security Officer.
A United States Air Force Veteran, Pete graduated from the BAI Graduate School of Bank Operations through Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management in 2006 and completed the Pennsylvania Bankers Association’s (PBA) School of Banking in 2009. He earned his credentials as a Certified Information Executive from USC Upstate Campus’s Institute for CIO Excellence in 2016. He also puts his expertise to valuable use as a member of the PBA IT Technology Committee and Chair of the PBA Cyber Sub-committee.
In his spare time, Pete serves as a School Board Member of New Covent Academy and as an Elder at the Church of the New Covent and volunteers for Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally and the Annual Laurel Classic Mountain Bike Challenge. He lives in Wellsboro with his wife, Cassie, and has three daughters, Alyssa, Joy and Mikaela.