Interpol warns of ‘alarming’ cybercrime rate during pandemic

In the first two weeks of April 2020, there was a rise in ramsomware attacks, in which users have to pay money to get their computer to work again. (File/Shutterstock)
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Updated 04 August 2020

Interpol warns of ‘alarming’ cybercrime rate during pandemic

  • Cybercriminals are increasingly using disruptive malware against critical infrastructure and health care institutions
  • There was also an increase in the spread of fake news and misinformation which sometimes itself conceals malware

LYON: Global police body Interpol warned Monday of an “alarming” rate of cybercrime during the coronavirus pandemic, with criminals taking advantage of people working from home to target major institutions.
An assessment by the Lyon-based organization found a “significant target shift” by criminals from individuals and small businesses to major corporations, governments and critical infrastructure.
“Cybercriminals are developing and boosting their attacks at an alarming pace, exploiting the fear and uncertainty caused by the unstable social and economic situation created by COVID-19,” said Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock.
“The increased online dependency for people around the world is also creating new opportunities, with many businesses and individuals not ensuring their cyberdefenses are up to date,” he added.
The report said cybercriminals were sending COVID-19 themed phishing emails — which seek to obtain confidential data from users — often impersonating government and health authorities.
Cybercriminals are increasingly using disruptive malware against critical infrastructure and health care institutions, it added.
In the first two weeks of April 2020, there was a rise in ramsomware attacks, in which users have to pay money to get their computer to work again.
There was also an increase in the spread of fake news and misinformation which sometimes itself conceals malware, said Interpol.
From January to April, some 907,000 spam messages, 737 incidents related to malware and 48,000 malicious URLs — all related to COVID-19 were detected by one of Interpol’s private sector partners, it said.
The agency warned the trend was set to continue and a “further increase in cybercrime is highly likely in the near future.”
“Vulnerabilities related to working from home and the potential for increased financial benefit will see cybercriminals continue to ramp up their activities and develop more advanced and sophisticated” methods, it said.
Once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, Interpol said, “it is highly probable that there will be another spike in phishing related to these medical products as well as network intrusion and cyberattacks to steal data.”


Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong arrested for 2019 ‘unlawful assembly’

Updated 25 min 37 sec ago

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong arrested for 2019 ‘unlawful assembly’

  • The 23-year-old pro-democracy figure said on Twitter he was being held for violating the “draconian anti-mask law”
HONG KONG: Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong was arrested on Thursday in relation to a protest at the height of the city’s pro-democracy unrest last year, his lawyer said.
The detention of the city’s most high-profile dissident is the latest in a string of arrests of government critics and comes after China imposed a sweeping new national security law on Hong Kong in late June.
He was arrested for “unlawful assembly” over a 2019 demonstration against a government ban on face masks that was imposed before the coronavirus pandemic, his lawyer said.
The 23-year-old pro-democracy figure said on Twitter he was also being held for violating the “draconian anti-mask law,” which has since been ruled unconstitutional.
Wong’s lawyer told AFP he was arrested when he reported to a police station concerning another case against him, for which he is currently on trial.
“Wong is accused of participating in an unlawful assembly on October 5 last year, when hundreds marched to oppose an anti-mask ban the government rolled out,” lawyer Jonathan Man said.
The march that day came after much of the city had ground to a halt with the subway suspended and many shops and malls shuttered following a night of violence.
Hundreds of protesters, almost all masked, staged the unsanctioned demonstration through the popular shopping district of Causeway Bay, a day after the city’s leader Carrie Lam outlawed masks by invoking colonial-era emergency powers not used for half a century.
The act of resistance came after a night of widespread chaos as hardcore protesters trashed dozens of subway stations, vandalized shops with mainland China ties, built fires and blocked roads. Many chanted “No rioters, only tyranny” and other popular protest slogans.
At the time of the march, Hong Kong had already been battered by four months of increasingly violent pro-democracy protests.