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 announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 29 July 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 503,827
  • A total of 8,212 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 12 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,289 new infections on Thursday.
Of the new cases, 260 were recorded in Makkah, 253 in Riyadh, 220 in the Eastern Province, 100 in Jazan, 76 in Asir, 73 in Hail, 63 in Madinah, 42 in Tabuk, 41 in Najran, 30 in the Northern Borders region, 23 in Al-Baha, and 11 in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 503,827 after 1,299 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 8,212 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 26 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Saudi Arabia sends medical aid to Malaysia amid rising coronavirus infections

Saudi Arabia sends medical aid to Malaysia amid rising coronavirus infections
Updated 29 July 2021

Saudi Arabia sends medical aid to Malaysia amid rising coronavirus infections

Saudi Arabia sends medical aid to Malaysia amid rising coronavirus infections
  • The equipment included essential medical and preventive supplies and equipment
  • The one million doses of the coronavirus vaccine will be provided in coordination with the Malaysian foreign minister's office

DUBAI: Medical aid from Saudi Arabia arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday to help tackle the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, state news agency SPA reported.

The equipment, sent by the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid, included essential medical and preventive supplies and equipment.

This move comes in implementation of the directives of King Salman, following the request of Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein during his call with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Meanwhile, the one million doses of the coronavirus vaccine will be provided in coordination with the Malaysian foreign minister's office. One of the approved international companies will supply the required quantities of vaccines directly from their factories to Malaysia.

Earlier on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia had sent medical aid to Uruguay to help the country in its fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

The equipment included 53 respirators and over 2.3 million surgical masks, in addition to protective clothing, medical gloves and other preventive supplies.


Saudi Food and Drug Authority seizes 412 tons of shrimp, fake food labels in Jazan

Saudi Food and Drug Authority seizes 412 tons of shrimp, fake food labels in Jazan
Updated 29 July 2021

Saudi Food and Drug Authority seizes 412 tons of shrimp, fake food labels in Jazan

Saudi Food and Drug Authority seizes 412 tons of shrimp, fake food labels in Jazan
  • Inspectors found modifications of data and expiry dates of the shrimps repackaged in new containers

JAZAN: Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) inspectors seized 412 tons of shrimp stocks after detecting fake food labels and product packages inside an illegal warehouse in Jazan region.

SFDA said that during the inspection and investigation operations, inspectors detected modifications of the data and the expiry dates of the product, which was repackaged in new containers.

The shrimp products, and packages and data labels were seized, in addition to another 500,000 labels bearing food data and cartons ready for packing.

As a result of the inspection, the authority closed the unlicensed warehouse and summoned those responsible for the facility to hear statements and complete the application of penalties and regulations against them.

According to food law and its executive regulations, the penalty for such violations can reach up to SR10 million ($2.6 million), in addition to a ban on the violator from practicing any food business for up to 180 days, as well as license suspensions and/or cancellations.

Violations of establishments under the supervision of the SFDA can be reported by calling the unified number (19999), or through its “Tameni” application available on the iOS and Android operating systems.

 

 


35,000 Saudi families benefit from Sakani housing scheme

35,000 Saudi families benefit from Sakani housing scheme
Updated 29 July 2021

35,000 Saudi families benefit from Sakani housing scheme

35,000 Saudi families benefit from Sakani housing scheme
  • Kingdom's Vision 2030 reform plan aims to raise the proportion of residential ownership to 70 percent

RIYADH: A total of 34,891 families benefited from subsidized mortgage loans through the Sakani self-construction program during the first half of this year.

Run by the Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs, and Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund (REDF), Sakani offers Saudis access to land and residential housing via financing solutions to help first-time homebuyers.

The Vision 2030 reform plan aims to raise the proportion of residential ownership in the Kingdom to 70 percent.

Sakani provided various residential products and financial solutions for 111,568 families in the first six months of the year, including 87,896 families that have already moved into new homes and its website and app are designed to simplify and speed up the purchasing process for readymade, off-plan, self-construction, and land products.

To qualify for a subsidized loan for self-construction, applicants must be entitled to residential support, own a residential land plot and have a valid building permit, have a fixed income, and must not have previously claimed housing support. Details are available at https://sakani.housing.sa/product/SC.

The scheme also provides an engineering design service with a range of high-quality, competitively priced options in partnership with experienced engineering offices. More than 36 distinctive and modern self-construction designs are available along with an approved contractor service.

The REDF offers more than 43 e-services for citizens as well as a real-estate adviser app and its online team provides around-the-clock support for those seeking subsidized funding.

Beneficiaries can call 199088 or contact the REDF on social media for information on housing and financial solutions, programs, and initiatives.


Saudi aviation authority issues update for citizens’ travel procedures abroad 

Saudi aviation authority issues update for citizens’ travel procedures abroad 
Updated 29 July 2021

Saudi aviation authority issues update for citizens’ travel procedures abroad 

Saudi aviation authority issues update for citizens’ travel procedures abroad 
  • New procedures will come into effect on Aug. 9

RIYADH: The Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has issued a new circular to all airlines, both public and private, operating from the Kingdom’s airports updating the procedures for citizens’ travel outside Saudi Arabia.

The circular stipulates that airlines can carry citizens on international flights, provided that they have received all doses of one of the anti-coronavirus vaccines approved in the Kingdom, with the exception of passengers under the age of 12.

Travelers under the age of 12 are required to present an insurance document approved by the Saudi Central Bank that covers the risks of COVID-19 infection outside the Kingdom.

In addition, citizens who recovered from the virus less than 6 months ago and those who contracted corona more than 6 months ago and received a single dose of one of the approved vaccines in the Kingdom can travel abroad.

GACA said that these procedures will come into effect on Aug. 9.

The GACA continues to apply all preventive measures at the Kingdom’s airports, with the aim of providing an integrated health environment for travelers at Saudi airports.

The procedures also include obliging all concerned authorities and air transport companies operating at the Kingdom’s airports to comply with health safety requirements and preventive measures.