Phishing campaigns are the top threat to consumer safety, according to Norton Labs, cybersecurity firm NortonLifeLock’s global research team’s Consumer Cyber Safety Pulse report.

The report highlighted the top cybersecurity trends from January to March 2021. Phishing campaigns remained the number one threat to consumer Cyber Safety, with top scams relating to the pandemic, including vaccine-oriented, financial relief, and tech support scams.

According to Darren Shou, head of technology, NortonLifeLock, cybercriminals are continuing to find new ways to capitalise upon the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Over the next three months, we can expect scammers to tap into the gradual shift to a post-Covid state as people start to return to work, travel and engage in social activities,” said Shou.

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Norton blocks more than 900 million threats on average every 100 days, it said. Between January 2021 and March 2021, 49.6 million phishing attempts, 46.3 million file-based malware, 6,86,000 mobile-malware files and 5,36,137 ransomware detections were reported.

“During this time, the majority of scams were designed to trick consumers into sharing their personal and financial information in an attempt to steal their money,” as per the report

Other cyber threats on the rise

Apart from this, cyber threats such as stalkerware, illicit coin-mining and gaming threats are also on the rise.

As per the report, the instances of stalkerware, malware designed to secretly monitor victims’ activities on their devices, increased by 20 per cent from November 2020 to January 2021. Norton Labs also detected a surge in emails purporting to sell stalkerware.

In terms of cryptocurrency, the rising popularity of digital currency has led to a surge in illicit coinmining and ransomware.

“Coin mining has come roaring back with the price of Bitcoin quadrupling over the past year. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the price trend and increasingly spreading coin miner malware that exploit’s consumers’ computer resources for illicit mining activities – victims could see a spike in their electric bills as a result,” the report said.

As consumers now have easy access to cryptocurrencies through services like Coinbase, Robinhood and PayPal, there has been a parallel rise in ransomware campaigns requiring payment in cryptocurrency, with a 35 per cent increase from late 2020 to early 2021. Cybercriminals are also increasingly targeting gamers.

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“In addition to phishing campaigns, “Trojanized” crack campaigns are an increasing threat targeting the gaming community,” the report said.

These cracks are being distributed from sites that are displayed quite early in Google searches and trick gamers into manually disabling antivirus protection while infecting their system with a variety of highly malicious software, the report further said.