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Fake news to ransomware, Covid-19 was theme of cyberattacks in 2020: Avast Report

Hackers did not even spare hospitals in these testing times. From Czech Republic to Germany, hospitals were under ransomware attacks. Also, big companies like Garmin, Jack Daniels and the Ritz London faced the brunt of it.

By: Tech Desk | December 3, 2020 4:48:30 pm
COVID-19, coronavirus, covid-19 positiveDuring the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic cyberattacks have increased considerably (Representational Image)

2020 has been a confusing year for many as they tried to become more tech-friendly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This also led to people getting scammed on the internet whether they were trying to get information about the novel coronavirus or its cures. Cybersecurity firm Avast recently released a report which said cybercriminals used the pandemic to their advantage leading to more scams and phishing attacks on vulnerable people. There was a massive increase in threats, including stalkerware and adware as the people were more reliant on mobile devices for personal or official work.

Avast found out that there were a number of malvertising campaigns that set up fake shops to sell cures and medication to people. Apparently, they even used the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) name and logo to make it seem more authentic. This led to people “downloading malware in messages containing coronavirus and other related terms in malicious files spreading via email, SMS, and other malware”.

Avast’s mobile threat intelligence platform apklab.io identified malicious apps including mobile banking trojans and spyware that pretended to provided certain Covid-19 related services. These apps were in excess of 600.

Fake news was one of the biggest challenges people faced during the pandemic as the misinformation was spread by people even without checking its authenticity. Cybercriminals took advantage of it and spread lies like Bill Gates funded the spread of Covid-19 and the virus is just a hoax to turn their democratic country into an autocracy. Deepfakes (mostly pornographic ones) were also made of TikTok users which is a flipside of the advancement of technology and artificial intelligence (AI).

People also resorted to social media apps to connect with their friends, family or get entertained. Avast says that adware was the most dominant malware out of all threats on Android devices. In the first quarter of the year, it had a 50 per cent share among all Android threats followed by 27 per cent and 29 per cent in the next two quarters respectively. The most notorious of them was the HiddenAds family, which ended up on Google Play Store again and again despite removal. Avast revealed that it flagged 50 scams on Google Play Store and Apple App Store that were deleted by their respective security teams.

“Developers of adware increasingly used social media channels in 2020, like regular marketers would, to increase the number of app downloads. Users reported they were targeted with ads promoting adware apps on YouTube, and in September we saw adware spread via profiles on TikTok. The popularity of these social networks make them an attractive advertising platform, also for cybercriminals, to target a younger audience,” said Jakub Vávra, Threat Analyst at Avast.

There was an increase of 20 per cent in ransomware attacks during the initial spread of the Covid-19 in March and April compared to the first two months. Hackers did not even spare hospitals in these testing times. From the Czech Republic to Germany, hospitals were under ransomware attacks. Also, big companies like Garmin, Jack Daniels and the Ritz London faced the brunt of it. In some cases, companies had to pay millions as ransom to save their data. In an earlier survey’s report published by CrowdStrike, out of 2,200 companies a big chunk was worried about ransomware attacks in the near future as well.

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