Rise In Online Scams During Covid-19

There has been a significant rise in online scams during Covid-19. So we thought now was a good time to remind people about online safety.

Challenging Times

It may be obvious, but just to say many people are really stressed and anxious at the moment. This can result in people being distracted and as a result less vigilant about security. Staff might be working with new software, computer set ups that they are unfamiliar with, multiple distractions at home.

So, what do you need to look for to protect yourself from online scams during Covid-19?

Covid-19

Again, it may be obvious, but the most common scams are related to covid-19. If a product is scarce, be extra careful when purchasing.

Emails about face masks, sanitisers, emails from the WHO.

Information

We all have a need to keep up-to-date with what is happening. Check out the latest information, get the facts, get help.

Criminals know this and may exploit current news stories.

Money

This is a time when people are worried about money. So be vigilant if you are investigating what financial help is available.

Updates on the Government money, grants, schemes.

Also, be extra careful of any email that purports to come from your GP, the NHS. There are lots of these that are genuine at the moment which you should read. So you need to think before you click. If in doubt don’t click on the link – navigate to the websites yourself.

Basic Security

So how can you protect yourself from online scams with Covid-19. Well the first way to be safe always starts with the basic security of IT.

Passwords and Encryption

If someone is accessing personal data whilst at home the most basic, but essential security is a good password.

If they are taking data home using a personal computer or removable hard drive, encrypt it. You may have no control over where that data is stored once it leaves your office.

Internet Security Software

There are loads of good Internet Security options. They do wax and wane though. So what is considered absolutely rubbish one year may be good the next and vice versa.

Check out the ones that have been reviewed by AV-Test.org and get a rating of more than 5 in all tests. Don't fret about getting all 6's - very few get all sixes all year.

Updates

I know, I know, us IT people go on and on about the importance of Windows updates, software updates. It is for a good reason, so now is a good time to ensure everything is updated with security updates.

The same goes for Apple updates - they issue them for a reason.

I know lots of people find passwords challenging so see my separate blog that has Tips for Creating Strong Passwords.

Online Shopping and Online Scams During Covid-19

The lockdown has forced everyone to do more online shopping. What can you look for?

Prices

A lot of scammers are pricing items too low or too high (too low to entice people to buy cheap, too high if something is perceived as scarce). So if you haven’t bought something before, check out several sites to get a feel for the ‘going rate’ and buy at that price.

Deliveries

A lot of scammers are promising impossible delivery dates. If an item is scarce or in popular demand you might need to wait to get delivery. If a site promises a delivery that is unusually quick be extra careful. Check that the site has a delivery and return policy – if it doesn’t why not?

Counterfeit

There are even more people offering counterfeit goods than normal at the moment. Before you purchase see if another website gives you any reviews of that seller and product. Check to see if there are any posts from someone else who bought from that site about whether the product was genuine.

Web Skimmers

Cybercriminals are hacking legitimate websites and inserting digital credit card skimmers on their shopping cart pages. You are unlikely to be able to see this and malware experts say it has increased during the lockdowns. Your best protection is to ensure your Internet Security solution is robust and up-to-date.

Personal Data to be Sold on

If a site is asking you for too much personal information without a good reason back away. Only complete the required sections of any data entry forms.

Ransomware

There has been an increase in ransomware. This is normally installed via a link – a link from an email or a website. Be extra vigilant before you click on a link. Remember that criminals are good at making an email look genuine. Just because it says it comes from someone you know, don’t assume it does. The email may look as though it comes from your boss, but have they just changed one letter in the email address?

Ramsomware will encrypt all of your data and then ask you to pay for the key to decrypt that data. If you have the data stored elsewhere you don’t need to pay. So TAKE BACKUPS and REMOVE THE BACKUP DEVICE FROM YOUR COMPUTER. I know, no need to shout Rebecca! It’s just that I know people don’t realise that ransomware will spread via all mapped drives, so it can go from your computer to your network drives, to your backup drives. So it’s no use taking a backup and leaving it connected to your computer. That will not protect you from ransomware.

Most important of all, be cautious. If in doubt, hesitate, check and if still in doubt do not proceed.

Rebecca Mansbridge
April 2020