Covid-19 vaccine-related phishing attacks up 26 per cent: Report

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on March 08, 2021

In an analysis conducted between October 2020 and January 2021, researchers at Barracuda Networks have found that hackers are increasingly using vaccine-related e-mails in their targeted spear-phishing attacks. Barracuda is a provider of cloud-enabled security solutions.

The researchers said previously cybercriminals capitalised on the global pandemic with coronavirus-related phishing attacks. Now, they are shifting their focus towards leveraging the vaccine to steal money and personal information.

The number of vaccine-related phishing attacks has increased by 12 per cent after pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Moderna announced the availability of vaccines in November 2020. By the end of January 2021, the average number of attacks was up to 26 per cent.

According to the researchers, cybercriminals are taking advantage of the heightened fear and uncertainty prevailing around the Covid-19 vaccine to launch attacks using urgency, social engineering, and other common tactics to lure victims.

Barracuda researchers identified two predominant types of spear-phishing attacks using vaccine-related themes: brand impersonation and business e-mail compromise.

Business Email Compromise (BEC), which has been one of the most damaging email threats in the past few years, cost businesses over $26 billion, is now being used by attackers for vaccine-related topics.

Barracuda Networks India’s Murali Urs, said: “At Barracuda, we can identify e-mail messages coming not just from outside the organisations but also internal communication. As a result, a lot of fraudulent messages are being sent internally, usually from compromised accounts.”

He added: “Cybercriminals mostly use legitimate accounts to send mass phishing and spam campaigns to as many individuals as possible before their activity is detected, and they are locked out of an account.”

“That’s why when looking at these lateral phishing attacks over time, we see these huge spikes of activity. Interestingly, vaccine-related lateral phishing attacks spiked around the same time that major Covid-19 vaccines were announced and approved around the world,” he further noted.

Published on March 08, 2021

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