Criminals exploit COVID-19 fears to launch ‘unprecedented wave’ of global cyberattacks

Criminals exploit COVID-19 fears to launch ‘unprecedented wave’ of global cyberattacks
Criminals have been exploiting fears over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to launch an “unprecedented wave” of cyberattacks around the world, experts have revealed. (File/AFP)
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Updated 28 March 2020

Criminals exploit COVID-19 fears to launch ‘unprecedented wave’ of global cyberattacks

Criminals exploit COVID-19 fears to launch ‘unprecedented wave’ of global cyberattacks
  • Thousands of incidents of digital crime related to the COVID-19 outbreak have been reported as countries battle to bring virus infections under control
  • One tactic used by cybercriminals was to send out bulk emails with the aim of tricking users into opening attachments and documents claiming to contain protective information about COVID-19

RIYADH: Criminals have been exploiting fears over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to launch an “unprecedented wave” of cyberattacks around the world, experts have revealed.

Governments and law enforcement agencies are being urged to join forces to combat the hackers who have been using the fear and panic surrounding the global health crisis to run money making scams, spread false information, and steal data.

Thousands of incidents of digital crime related to the COVID-19 outbreak have been reported as countries battle to bring virus infections under control.

Mohammed Khurram Khan, a professor of cybersecurity at King Saud University in Riyadh, said: “Panic, fear and confusion due to the coronavirus pandemic has spurred cybercriminals to launch an unprecedented wave of cyberattacks around the world which have targeted medical facilities, vaccine testing centers, and general users.

“These unscrupulous cybercriminals range from individuals to organized criminal gangs and even nation-state sponsored threat actors who are exploiting the current chaotic situation for their monetary benefits and inhuman instincts.”

Khan, who is also CEO of the Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research in Washington, added: “COVID-19-themed cybercriminals recently registered thousands of web domains to launch their attacks via phishing emails, scams to plea for donations for vaccine development and research, and spread misinformation to create fear and panic among people.”

One tactic used by cybercriminals was to send out bulk emails with the aim of tricking users into opening attachments and documents claiming to contain protective information about COVID-19. When the files are accessed, damaging software (malware) is downloaded onto a computer, server, network or other device that is then capable of stealing sensitive information, spy on users, and surreptitiously extract important data.

The number of malicious mobile apps on COVID-19 had also rocketed, and Khan warned people to only download apps from official stores.

He said a ransomware hacking group had recently attacked the computer systems of Hammersmith Medicines Research (HMR), a coronavirus vaccine testing facility in London, and published personal details of thousands of former patients after the company declined to meet pay-off demands.

“To address these challenges, it is very important that governments and law enforcement agencies around the world work together for collective cybersecurity in order to suppress cybercriminals involved in launching attacks on critical infrastructure, medical facilities, vaccine testing centers and spreading fake news, misinformation and disinformation in the midst of COVID-19.

“Netizens (Internet users) should stay careful while trusting websites, mobile apps, and social media posts and only consult authentic sources such as WHO (World Health Organization) and official government websites to get authentic news and updates on COVID-19,” added Khan.

Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN Teams, a cybersecurity solution for businesses from the world’s most advanced VPN (virtual private network) service provider, said: “This may be the most dangerous time to be online and those least informed are in most danger.

“Hackers are exploiting very real fears about the coronavirus through fake emails and scam websites. People are giving up private information and downloading malware without a second thought.”

Some of the most common COVID-19 scams and security incidents have involved emails purporting to come from health authorities and claiming to contain instructions on how to prevent infection. Disguised as PDF, mp4, and docx files, the false instruction guides contain malware used to harvest data and take over infected devices. “That’s the granddaddy of coronavirus scams,” added Markuson.

Fake coronavirus maps have also been circulating. The now-famous Johns Hopkins University black world map with its expanding red dots has become a source of information available to all.

However, hackers used the university’s data to create malware-ridden apps and spread them all over the Internet to unsuspecting users. This resulted in cybercriminals gaining access to phone cameras, microphones, and text messages.

An ecosystem of scam websites also exists with thousands of fraudulent coronavirus websites being launched every day to host phishing scams, distribute malware, or sell non-existent cures and supplements.

Hackers prey on the fact that scared people tend to make irrational decisions and cybercriminals have been using COVID-19 conspiracy theories to grab attention and exploit fear.

By claiming to have a secret cure or new vaccine against COVID-19, they use social engineering to extract confidential data or bait users into downloading malware.


Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 1,070 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 1,070 new cases
Updated 2 min 56 sec ago

Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 1,070 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 1,070 new cases
  • The Kingdom said 940 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • The highest number of cases were recorded in Riyadh with 483

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 12 new COVID-19 related deaths on Monday, raising the total number of fatalities to 6,846.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 1,070 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 407,010 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 9,626 remain active and 1,105 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 483, followed by Makkah with 209, the Eastern Province with 157, Madinah recorded 44, and Asir confirmed 39 cases.

The ministry also announced that 940 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 390,538.
The ministry renewed its call on the public to adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 141 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.01 million.


Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and China’s president discuss climate change

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping to strengthening relations. (File/SPA/AFP)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping to strengthening relations. (File/SPA/AFP)
Updated 2 min 4 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and China’s president discuss climate change

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping to strengthening relations. (File/SPA/AFP)
  • Kingdom is working to organize an annual summit for the Middle East Green Initiative, with China as a major partner
  • They also discussed cooperation in the fields of energy, trade and technology

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made a phone call to Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, Saudi Press Agency reported.
During the call, the two leader reviewed the recently announced Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative to combat environmental challenges in the region.
The crown prince announced the two initiatives in late March that aim to form partnerships with regional countries to tackle afforestation, reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent, and protect the marine environment, among other projects.
The crown prince and the president discussed the contributions of these two initiatives toward achieving global targets to combat climate change, and their influential role in raising the quality of life in the region and the world at large.
The crown prince said the Kingdom is working to organize an annual summit for the Middle East Green Initiative in the presence of leaders and officials in the environmental field, adding that China will be a major partner for the initiative.
The Chinese president said Beijing supported both initiatives, stressing the importance of their support by the international community.
Xi told the crown prince that China wants to advance its strategic partnership with the Kingdom.
The crown prince and the president also discussed cooperation in the fields of energy, trade and technology.
Prince Mohammed said his country was ready to strengthen the interconnection between the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
During the call, Xi said Beijing “is willing to work with Saudi Arabia and other members of the international community to build an equitable climate governance regime that is cooperative and beneficial to all,” Xinhua news agency reported.
The Chinese president also called for joint efforts to comprehensively and effectively implement “the Paris Agreement on climate change in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.”


Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait

Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait
Updated 20 April 2021

Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait

Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait

DUBAI: The Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed a Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait on Tuesday, state TV Al-Ekhbariya reported.

The Kingdom has seen an increase in attacks by the militia after the US delisted the Houthis from the list of terrorist organizations.

Last month, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak condemned recent attacks by the Houthis, saying that they hindered the peace process and blamed Iran for the ongoing crisis in the country.
“The Iranian interventions have become a formidable obstruction to peace as Iran has turned the Yemeni conflict into a negotiating card that Iranian regime capitalizes on to serve its nuclear negotiations,” he said.


Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 

Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 
Updated 20 April 2021

Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 

Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 

RIYADH: The National Culture Awards Ceremony kicked off with a bang in Riyadh, honoring 32 Saudi cultural figures in 14 categories.

A part of the Quality of Life program of Vision 2030 the Ministry of Culture announced the first annual National Cultural Awards winners in a ceremony on Monday evening in the Cultural Palace of the Diplomatic Quarter.

Sponsored by the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman over 14 categories were awarded in cultural pioneering, youth cultural, cultural institutions, film, music, fashion, national heritage, literature, theater and performing arts, visual art, architecture and design, culinary arts, publishing, and translation.

In January 2020 the Ministry of Culture began the completion process and received over 15,000 submissions online and began deliberating the top submissions into October and chose the final winners in December.

The Vice Minister of Culture Hamed M. Fayez spoke on behalf of the Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Farhan Al-Saud in a speech addressing the ceremony stating, “ Culture, with its civilizational value, its social weight, and its effective developmental role today occupies the place it deserves. Thanks to the inspiring and ambitious national vision, the Saudi Vision 2030, which restored culture as a basic pillar in building society.  Anchored by the national identity and aspects of pride in the history and civilization of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Although the Minister of Culture was not in attendance he applauded the winners of the awards for their role in preserving and promoting the Kingdom's Culture stating, “ These intellectuals and creative minds are our cultural capital. With whom we will reach, with them and with their help, a cultural renaissance fitting the stature of our country.”

Dana Awartani one of the winners of the visual arts award from Jeddah, brings to life traditional geometry and historical themes in her art pieces.

“For me it is a huge honor first of all finally being recognized for the creative industry as a whole and all of the work that we do you know the past few years since the ministry has formed it has been completely different for us in getting support and recognition.”

“This is the first ever awards ceremony recognizing different arts which for me is a an honor to be a part of and it’s everything we have been working for, for the past my whole career has been summed up in today’s award and it is also great to see its  recognition from my own community, from my own country in a place where I grew up and where my art started,” Awartani shared with Arab News”.

Arwa Alammari a fashion pioneer of over 7 years and one of the winners of the fashion award shared her sentiments with Arab News stating,

“Being a part of such a cultural celebration of our heritage in such a way and it coming from my country means a lot to me, I have been working in this field for a very long time and I have been awarded internationally but when it comes from my country it means that we are all going toward the cultural changes that is going to be exported to the world.”

The awards ceremony concluded with a speech from the Governor of Riyadh Prince Faisal Bin Bandar in attendance on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. 

“There is no doubt that it is a very excellent and wonderful step.  That establishes a cultural approach for this country that affirms its high and sublime position in all forums.” 

Prince Bandar thanked the Crown Prince for sponsoring the awards, the Ministry of Culture, and members of the ministry for organizing the event, “I hope that we will all succeed on other occasions to come, so that we will be at a high level in all our events, as much as tonight.  I thank you and hope every year you are well. Peace, mercy and blessings of God be upon you.”

14 cultural awards winners:

  • The Cultural Pioneer of the Year Award: H.E. Shaikh Mohammed Nasser Alaboudy
  • Youth Cultural Award: Winning first place is Shahad Saeed Amin for her films including “Lady of the Sea” and “Scales” that Saudi Arabia’s film authority nominated for best international film in the Academy Awards.
  • Cultural Institutions Award: First place in the private sector track is King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), First place in the Non-Profit sector track is Saudi Heritage Preservation Society, and winning first place in the Social responsibility track is the Ketabi Lak Application.
  • Film Award: In first place is Shahad Saeed Amin
  • Fashion Award: In first place Lomar, in second place Yousef Mohammed Akbar,and in third place Arwa Abdullah Alammari
  • Music Award: In first place Zaina Emad Swelleh,in second place Akram Ibrahim Almattar, and in third place Reem Fahad Altamimi.
  • National Heritage Award: In first place Abdulaziz Abdullah Aldakheel, in second place Dr. Hisham Ali Mortada ,and in third place Torathuna Social Responsibility Company.
  • Literature Award: In first place is Abdulaziz Saleh Alsagabi, in second place Magbool Moussa Alalawi, and in third place Amal Saleh Alharbi.
  • Theater and Performing Arts Award: In first place Sami Abdullatif Algamaan and in second place Yasser Yahya Madkhli.
  • Visual Arts Award: in first place Lolowah Abdulrazzaq Alhomoud ,in second place Danah Abdulrahim Awratani, and in third place Ahmad Sami Angawi.
  • Architecture and Design Award: A winner was not selected as the submissions did not meet the requirements. 
  • Culinary Arts Award: In first place Rakan Ibrahim Aloraifi, in second place ZADK Culinary Academy, and in third place Norah Abdulwahab Albadran
  • Publishing Award: In first place was Obeikan Publishing and Translation, second place Kadi and Ramadi for Publishing and Distribution, and in third place Dar Athar for Publishing and Distribution.
  • Translation Award: In first place Abdallah Mohammed Idris, in second place Sultan Nasser Almujaiwel, and in third place Bander Mohammed Alharbi.

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries
Updated 20 April 2021

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

RIYADH: King Salman has authorized SR 1.9 billion to be paid to Saudis who receive social security benefits, Al Ekhbariya reported early Tuesday.
Ahmed Suleiman Al-Rajhi, the minister of human resources and social development, welcomed the king’s generous support to citizens during the holy month of Ramadan. 
The announcement came as Saudis prepare to fast for the eight day.