The Covid-19 pandemic, commonly referred to as the Novel CoronaVirus, has hit the world quite hard. Hundreds of thousands of people across the globe have been infected already, and tens of thousands succumbed to the deadly virus. Economies of different worlds are on the brink of collapsing. Almost all countries across the globe have felt these dire impacts.
Hackers and cyber attackers are always quick to take advantage of such situations. A recent study now shows that 22% of Americans have already fallen victims of cyberattacks. A study carried out by Barracuda Network researchers show that there has been a 667% in the number of phishing attacks and attempts since February 2020.
Hackers are well aware of how desperate the world is to find information about this global pandemic. Out of panic, people have forgotten the critical elements of cybersecurity and went ahead to seek information from malicious sources. Website users also end up downloading malicious files or buy Covid-19 preparedness items from risky websites. They end up becoming victims of cybersecurity.
It is essential for website owners and visitors to be extra cautious to avoid such instances. As a website owner or visitor, there are guidelines and tips to which you should put into consideration to make sure that you remain safe from phishing attacks. This article elaborates some of these tips.
1. Check The Email Addresses Of The Sender To Verify Their Authenticity
Attackers tend to use phishing emails as a way to acquire confidential information from their targets. With the Covid-19 pandemic, most hackers have created email addresses with a close but not exact resemblance of those belonging to the World Health Organisation, National health Centres Red Cross and others. They use such emails to download malware so that they can take control of a network or access information of value from their victims.
So, how can you distinguish a legit sender from a scammer? Well, there are a few measures that you should take to protect yourself from sharing your passwords with an attacker, sending your health records to cybercriminal or channelling funds to a crime syndicate claiming to be a health officer or a charity organization helping victims of Covid-19.
The first thing to do is to verify if the sender is legit. To do this, you should hover from the display name to check the email address that comes up. Attackers tend to spoof a display name to appear as if it is from a legitimate sender. But when you hover over the display name, you will be able to establish who exactly send the email.
Another way you can verify if the email is legitimate is by making a phone call. There is nothing more satisfying, especially when the sender looks malicious, like picking up your phone, getting a phone contact from an official website and calling to enquire whether they are sending emails to people asking them to channel funds to help victims of Covid-19.
2. Make Sure That The Website Is Secured With An SSL Certificate
Before giving any sensitive personal information online, you must establish the security of the website. An SSL Certificate characterizes a secure site. It is the only mechanism that secures the information that you are transferring from your end to the server.
A secure site will have an SSL certificate. You should check the URL of the website to make sure that it begins with HTTPS and not HTTP. The S domain indicates that the website is secured. A closed lock icon should also appear near the address bar.
3. Be Cautious When Providing Sensitive Information
As a general rule, never share your personal and sensitive information via the internet, unless you are sure of what you are doing. A site asking for your financial information, health details, or private information is a phishing scam. Avoid such sites.
When in doubt, it is prudent to visit the main website of the organization in question and try to establish the credibility of the information being requested. You can do this by getting their phone number and calling them. A phishing email will ask you to provide your crucial financial information, no matter what it might cost, do not give such information.
4. Avoid Clicking On Emails Or Links That Instil A Sense Of Urgency
Cyber attackers tend to instil urgency into their victims. This is because they do not want their victims to have time to think things through or become suspicious. So if there is a need for you to do something immediately, then it might be a sign that you are being scammed. This is especially common where someone wants you to channel funds to a charity organization claiming to be helping victims of the deadly CoronaVirus. Avoid such links and emails.
5. Avoid Links With Spelling Errors, Missing Contact Information And Other
There are features that a website having or not having indicate that it is a phishing website. For instance, a website without an About Us Page, a website with content with poor grammar and spelling errors, and a website without the contact information section. Do not entertain sites with such characteristics.
6. Install An Anti-Phishing Toolbar (For Websites)
An anti-phishing toolbar is a perfect security layer to protect yourself against Covid-19 phishing scams.
To do this, you have to customize your internet browser with an anti-phishing toolbar. Most internet browsers are well compatible with an anti-phishing toolbar. The toolbar scans the websites that you are visiting and compares them with a list of popular and known phishing sites. In case a website is on the list of the phishing sites or is generally malicious, then the toolbar will inform you. This link provides you with the best anti-phishing toolbars that you can go for.
7. Avoid Advertisements Selling Covid-19 Preparedness Materials At Low Prices
The Covid-19 pandemic brought in an urgent need of items and goods such as hand sanitizers, face masks and gloves. These items have ever since become scarce in local stores.
Hackers took advantage of this situation and created websites that claim to be selling Covid-19 preparedness materials. They entice consumers with very low prices of these items. Buyers then pay using their credit cards with an assurance that these products will be delivered at their doorsteps. But this ends up not to be the case. Nothing is delivered.
As an online shopper, you should be very keen on what kind of websites you buy from. Hackers are doing all their best to target you. They send advertisements into your inbox via your social media accounts. Low Prices and lucrative claims might be a clear sign that an unknown retailer is not to be trusted. As the saying goes, ‘If the deal is so good, think twice.’
8. Keep Your Browser UpTo date
Popular browser versions come with fixed security loopholes. These versions are released in response to security trends that phishers and hackers use to exploit their victims.
It is crucial to install a browser update the moment it arrives. If you have not done that, then with the many Covid-19 scams, it is possible that you will soon become a victim. To prevent this from happening to you, stop whatever thing that you are doing and update your browser.
9. Install Firewalls
Installing firewalls is one of the most effective mechanisms that you can have to prevent yourself against phishing attempts. They act as a buffer that protects your computer and all the files that it carries from outside intruders.
One of the best practices, for as far as firewalls are concerned, is by applying two types of firewalls; the network firewall and the desktop firewall. The network firewall protects you from any software intruders while the desktop firewall acts as a hardware firewall. Using the two firewalls together decreases the chances of a hacker successfully accessing your network or computer.
10. Use an Anti-Virus Software
There are numerous reasons as to why you should use anti-virus software. The anti-virus software is fitted with special features that protect your entire system against any loopholes that might give a hacker a chance to sniff through your system. The general role that the anti-virus software play is protecting your computer system against any phishing attempts. A malicious site claiming to be a trusted Covid-19 help centre can be easily blocked.
It is our hope that this global pandemic will be brought to an end as soon as possible. But as the relevant organization works to find a remedy to this, it is vital for everyone to remain cautious and vigilant of the increasing phishing threats. The consequences are severe; you will end up losing money or giving confidential data to dangerous hackers who will use it for the wrong reasons. To avoid falling into their trap, make sure that you follow the steps that have been given in this article.