Zscaler saw 30,000% increase in Coronavirus-themed attacks

Researchers at Zscaler observed an increase of 30,000% in Coronavirus-themed attacks in March when compared to the beginning of 2020.

Researchers from Zscaler observed an increase of 30,000% in Coronavirus-themed attacks in March when compared to the beginning of 2020.

In January experts started observing first attacks using COVID-19-related lures and themes, just two months later in March they detected roughly 380,000 malicious attacks.

“Since January, we have seen an increase of 30,000% in phishing, malicious websites, and malware targeting remote users—all related to COVID-19. In January, we saw (and blocked) 1,200 such attacks. How many did we see in March? 380,000! ” reads the blog post published by Zscaler.

Zscaler detected an 85% increase in phishing attacks targeting remote enterprise users, a 25% increase in malicious sites and malware samples blocked, and a 17% increase in threats directed at enterprise users.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, experts detected more than 130,000 suspicious newly registered domains (NRDs) using keywords related to the Coronavirus pandemic (i.e. test, mask, Wuhan, kit, and more).

In February, Zscaler researchers saw 10,000 coronavirus-themed attacks.

Corona themed hack

“Phishing attacks based around COVID-19 targeted corporations as well as consumers. On the corporate front, spear-phishing emails were designed to look as if they were coming from the recipient’s corporate IT team or payroll department.” continues the report. “On the consumer side, we saw malicious emails asking for personal information as a way to help individuals get their government stimulus money, and we saw those soliciting donations for COVID-19-based causes.”

Zscaler researchers reported the case of weaponized PowerPoint document targets users in Brazil, in one case attackers used documents that supposedly contained a list of hotels that had been affected by COVID-19.

One of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is an increase of online purchases, for this reason, e-skimmer gangs like Magecart remain active in the wild. Zscaler also observed Coronavirus-themed attacks across several different threat categories, including the infamous Nigerian 419 scam.

Below recommendations provided by Zscaler:

  • Stick with reputable sources for COVID-19 information
  • Be wary of requests for emergency funds via email (call the sender to confirm, even if it appears to be from a known contact)
  • Do not open links or attachments from unknown sources
  • Enable two-factor authentication
  • Patch operating systems and apply security updates
  • Activate SMS/email notifications for any financial transactions

A few days ago, Google announced to have blocked about 18 million phishing and malware COVID-19-themed attacks against Gmail users.

Pierluigi Paganini

FAIR USE NOTICE: Under the "fair use" act, another author may make limited use of the original author's work without asking permission. Pursuant to 17 U.S. Code § 107, certain uses of copyrighted material "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright." As a matter of policy, fair use is based on the belief that the public is entitled to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for purposes of commentary and criticism. The fair use privilege is perhaps the most significant limitation on a copyright owner's exclusive rights. Cyber Defense Media Group is a news reporting company, reporting cyber news, events, information and much more at no charge at our website Cyber Defense Magazine. All images and reporting are done exclusively under the Fair Use of the US copyright act.

Global InfoSec Awards 2022

We are in our 10th year, and these awards are incredibly well received – helping build buzz, customer awareness, sales and marketing growth opportunities, investment opportunities and so much more.


10th Anniversary Exclusive Top 100 CISO Conference & Innovators Showcase