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written by
Jack Stratten

Cybersecurity threats during Covid-19

Mouse

It's fair to say that small businesses have enough on their plates during the current pandemic without the added threat of new, targeted cybersecurity scams.

However, Covid-19 has given cyber criminals a new lease of life, and a number of new and sophisticated approaches have been developed.

Here's a brief guide to the scams that are currently most common, and how to avoid them.

Click for a cure

Thousands of fake emails have been sent to individuals, purporting to have a cure for the coronavirus. Simply by following a link, the receiver, apparently, will get access to this miracle.

Once you click the link or access the link on the subsequent landing page, the criminals are normally able to collect your login details and perhaps even more personal data.

Sometimes, these emails are sent from email addresses that are obviously dubious, but more sophisticated versions have arisen too. Emails appearing to be from the World Health Organisation, the UK government and pharmaceutical companies have all been received.

A simple trick will reveal the truth in this and many other instances. Hold your mouse cursor over the email address to reveal the real address. If it's a scam email, this address will look unusual.

Donate here

Another common scam that's been reported appears to be an email raising money for a covid-related cause, which could be for the NHS, finding a vaccine, or a charity.

Typically, it will ask for payments to be made in bitcoin - which should signal an alarm. In most cases, these emails haven't been hugely sophisticated, but they're getting better.

Again, just be vigliant and logical. Don't click any links, check the email address and look for signs of illegitimacy. Poor grammar and unusual formatting are two tell-tale signs.

Tax refunds

An extremely common scam has been an email or text message, apparently from HMRC, granting the receiver a tax rebate.

The reason for receiving this rebate can vary, but the template of the email is normally pretty convincing - the design, logos and styling all look professional.

Sadly, it's been quite successful. It includes a link to input some bank and tax information, which some vulnerable small business staff have done. After all, a tax refund would be extremely welcome in these difficult times.

One simple fact should help you with this scam: HMRC never provide tax rebates this way. So if you receive a message like this, it's a scam. Delete it.

Health advice

There has also been a flurry of scams that begin by offering health-related Covid-19 advice.

These will often appear to be from research groups like the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and will claim to have valuable information about treatments or updates on the virus.

As ever, clicking these links can lead to malware being installed on your computer or sensitive information being requested.

Be more vigilant than ever

Sadly, this difficult time has been manipulated by cyber criminals, and thousands of businesses are being targeted.

The most important thing you can do is to be aware that it's happening, and share this information with colleagues, friends and peers. Be cautious, be vigilant, check email addresses and be extremely careful before clicking any links or attachments from unknown senders.

If you're genuinely cautious, there is nothing to fear.

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