A report from computer security firm McAfee has revealed that the company saw 375 new threats per minute as cybercriminals exploit the Covid-19 pandemic.

McAfee’s Covid-19 Threat Report: July 2020 examined cybercriminal activity related to Covid-19 in the first quarter of 2020.

As well as a surge in new threats, McAfee also observed a rise in Covid-19 themed malicious apps, phishing campaigns and malware.

“Thus far, the dominant themes of the 2020 threat landscape have been cybercriminal’s quick adaptation to exploit the pandemic and the considerable impact cyberattacks have had,” said Raj Samani, McAfee fellow and chief scientist.

“What began as a trickle of phishing campaigns and the occasional malicious app quickly turned into a deluge of malicious URLs and capable threat actors leveraging the world’s thirst for more information on Covid-19 as an entry mechanism into systems across the globe.”

Overall, the number of publicly disclosed security incidents increased by 41% compared to Q4 of 2019, with nearly half of these taking place in the US. Furthermore, disclosed incidents targeting the public sector rose by 73%.

McAfee Labs registered an increase in certain types of malware. For example, new Powershell malware increased 689% during the quarter, new internet of things malware samples grew by nearly 58%, and new mobile malware increased by 71%. However, overall new malware samples slowed by 35% over the quarter.

As well as Covid-19-related attacks, researchers also observed that malicious actors were focusing on certain sectors such as manufacturing, law and construction “where availability and integrity are fundamental”.

Researchers found that cybercriminals are using topics such as Covid-19 testing, treatments, cures, and remote working to lure in victims. In response McAfee Advanced Programs Group has launched a Covid-19 threat dashboard to track this type of threat.

“Cybersecurity cannot be solved by cookie cutter approaches, each organisation is unique and has specific intelligence requirements and objectives,” said Patrick Flynn, head of McAfee APG.

“The McAfee Covid-19 Threat Dashboard utilises data to create true analysed intelligence, which allows users to understand the total threat environment, informing them of potential threats before they are weaponised.”


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