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Hackers have hit every country on Earth with coronavirus-themed cyberattacks

Jeff Elder , Business Insider US
 Apr 09, 2020, 09:39 AM
Microsoft mapped attacks and found every country has suffered at least one virus-related attack.
  • Microsoft mapped cyberattacks such as phishing emails and found that 241 nations and territories have suffered at least one virus-related attack, the company wrote on its blog.
  • Hackers tend to attack countries when they are in the throes of the pandemic and people need health information online, the company says.
  • But here's the good news: Cyberattacks are actually not growing, Microsoft says, just shifting to Covid-19 themes.
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Hackers have launched coronavirus-themed cyberattacks in 241 countries and territories, according to new research from Microsoft

"Every country in the world has seen at least one Covid-19 themed attack," the software giant said on its blog Wednesday.

Bad actors are tailoring their phishing emails and other malware to mention the disease, and the attacks are hitting hardest where they hurt most: Hackers turn up the heat on a country that is experiencing the pandemic, when people need health information online, the research shows.

Rob Lefferts, corporate vice president of Microsoft 365 Security and the blog's author, told Business Insider that the cyberattacks follow the pandemic around the world geographically.

"What you're seeing in the map is that the success of these attacks is a direct correlation to the size of growth of the pandemic," said Lefferts. "Countries with the highest outbreak numbers are also the most affected by these Covid-themed lures. Confusion, concern, and fear are driving people to click and that's what attackers are taking advantage of."

Microsoft Threat Protection, the company's suite of cybersecurity tools used to track and block threats, also found roughly 60,000 emails with Covid-19 related malicious attachments or URLs are sent2%2 a day.

But here's the good news: That's actually a small percentage - just 2% - of overall scam emails, and the total number of threats isn't increasing.

"We're seeing a changing of lures, not a surge in attacks," Lefferts wrote. "Our intelligence shows that these attacks are settling into a rhythm that is the normal ebb and flow of the threat environment."

Beyond Microsoft's research, bad actors are taking advantage of Covid-19 in other ways too, including "Zoombombers" crashing into web conferences to disrupt meetings. On the other end of the spectrum, though, Chinese cyberattacks on American companies screeched to a halt during lockdown, apparently because hackers couldn't work from home.

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