A rapidly growing attack surface

Criminals have geared up to take advantage of the surge in working remotely prompted by the COVID-19 virus. Hackers have weaponized a live COVID-19 map to spread the AZORult malware, which steals passwords, payment card information, cookies, and other sensitive data. In a related story, state-sponsored hackers are using COVID-19 information as a lure in phishing attacks. Expect high quality social engineering attempts due to the plethora of information about COVID-19, and users’ desire to keep up-to-date on the illness and its impacts. – SANS – Neely As WIRED magazine observed, As more people work from home and anxiety mounts, expect cyberattacks of all sorts to take advantage.

How to spot a phishing attack:

Here are some tips from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

  • Suspicious sender’s address. The sender’s address may imitate a legitimate business. Cybercriminals often use an email address that closely resembles one from a reputable company by altering or omitting a few characters. 
  • Generic greetings and signature. Both a generic greeting—such as “Dear Valued Customer” or “Sir/Ma’am”—and a lack of contact information in the signature block are strong indicators of a phishing email. A trusted organization will normally address you by name and provide their contact information.
  • Spoofed hyperlinks and websites. If you hover your cursor over any links in the body of the email, and the links do not match the text that appears when hovering over them, the link may be spoofed. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com vs. .net). Additionally, cybercriminals may use a URL shortening service to hide the true destination of the link.
  • Spelling and layout. Poor grammar and sentence structure, misspellings, and inconsistent formatting are other indicators of a possible phishing attempt. Reputable institutions have dedicated personnel that produce, verify, and proofread customer correspondence.
  • Suspicious attachments. An unsolicited email requesting a user download and open an attachment is a common delivery mechanism for malware. A cybercriminal may use a false sense of urgency or importance to help persuade a user to download or open an attachment without examining it first.