You’d think that since most of us are stuck indoors, crime would be way, way down. And in some cases, you’d be right. But the FBI warns that cyber crime is on the rise during coronavirus lockdown. Here’s what you need to know.
The FBI deals with cyber crime complaints through its Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The agency just revealed that they’ve seen a huge jump in reports. In a normal, pre-pandemic day, they might receive a thousand calls. Now? Tonya Ugoretz, the deputy assistant director for the FBI’s Cyber Division, says that they’re getting three to four thousand complaints a day.
“We have increased vulnerabilities online, and increased interest from threat actors to exploit those,” Ugoretz said.
During a webinar on cyber crime hosted by the Aspen Institute, she explained that, just as many of us have started working from home, so have criminals. In particular, she cites the “rapid shift to telework” using unfamiliar and potentially vulnerable tools like Zoom as one of the reasons cyber crime is so much higher now.
In addition, Ugortez warned that hackers are attempting to infiltrate government and research facilities, as well as financial institutes. “We have certainly seen reconnaissance activity and some intrusions into some of those institutions, especially those who have identified themselves as working on COVID research,” she said.
Cybersecurity executive Marc Rogers told “The Hill” that the current rise in online crime is unprecedented. “We’ve seen spikes in cyber crime during Olympic Games or natural disasters, because criminals are aware of anything that causes uncertainty,” Rogers said.
“We were not anticipating World War Cyber, which is pretty much what we are facing.”
One type of cyber crime on the rise is the fake COVID-19 email or social media post. These fishing attempts aim to trick people into giving away personal information or clicking on a link that will download malware onto their computer.
In addition, other scammers are creating fake commerce sites. These sites offer hard-to-find supplies such as masks and toilet paper at outrageous prices. Not only will these sites fail to ship the products, but they’ll steal your money, and possibly your identity, too.
Finally, some unscrupulous people are trying to cash in on coronavirus fears by selling fake cures and ineffective personal protection gear. Alex Jones was recently ordered to stop selling snake oil remedies on his radio show by the FDA. However, there are still plenty of scammers out there trying to rip off frightened, desperate people.