Covid-19 pandemic: Beware of hackers on streaming platforms

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Companies across the UAE will likely need to support secure remote-work environments for quite some time, experts said.
Companies across the UAE will likely need to support secure remote-work environments for quite some time, experts said.

Dubai - The Mena region saw an estimated increase of 22% in malware, 36% in spam, and a 751% increase in unsafe clicks by users.


Rohma Sadaqat

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Published: Sat 22 Aug 2020, 6:06 PM

Cybercriminals have taken note of the increase in entertainment consumption across the UAE and GCC region that has come about as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Security experts have noted that as a result of this increase in entertainment consumption, hackers are increasingly targeting vulnerable consumers by creating malicious links that pose as popular channels.
Emad Haafar, head of Technical Experts for the Meta region at Kaspersky, said that hackers are always finding new ways to exploit users, and that Kaspersky experts earlier this year reported an increase in the number of phishing attacks with websites that imitate online shopping and streaming platforms.
"Cyber criminals create a copy of a web page that looks exactly like the landing page of popular streaming platforms and retailers," he said. "Sometimes, cyber criminals also create new landing pages that provide users free access in exchange for their credentials or bank account details. To an untrained eye, they will not be able to distinguish between a legitimate website and one disguised as a phishing website. It is important that Internet users stay vigilant while browsing the internet for their favourite TV shows or buying things online."
Haafar also noted that, with an increasing number of people working from home in recent months, many users might not have the high levels of online security that is granted to them in an office setting.
"When people work in an office they are protected by protection systems and IT staff that are there to handle the different security challenges," he explained. "Corporations are protected by a corporate firewall and on premise security solutions. Home networks on the other hand are not equipped with the same level of security as an organization and are more vulnerable to security breaches."
He added: "Cyber criminals have caught on to the trend that more people are working from home and see this opportunity to take advantage of this situation. It is vital that organisations provide their employees with training sessions to improve their cyber awareness and help mitigate any potential damage that could take place due to a cyber-attack."
Phil Mennie, partner, Digital Trust at PwC Middle East, explained that the sudden shift to remote working has accelerated the merging of blue and white collar roles, as all jobs are becoming increasingly more digital.
"Even though we see many countries easing restrictions and companies cautiously bringing people back into the office, our PwC Covid-19 CFO Pulse Survey shows that more than 72 per cent of Middle East CFOs and finance leaders expect the return to business-as-usual to take three months or more, and 53 per cent are preparing for a second wave of Covid-19 infections. It seems that remote working will stay with us for a while."
Like Haafar, he said that this increased reliance on digital platforms also opens up opportunities to cybercriminals.
The Mimecast Threat Intelligence Centre reported that between January and March 2020 alone, the global monthly volume of opportunistic cybercrime detections increased by over 26 per cent, with 115,000 new spoof domains detected that try to steal personal information. In the Mena region, they estimated an increase of 22 per cent in malware, 36 per cent in spam, and a 751 per cent increase in unsafe clicks by users in this time period.
Another report by Trend Micro Incorporated recorded 9,773 email, URL and file threats related to Covid-19 in Q1 2020 across the GCC, with the UAE taking the lead with 3,259 attacks. These numbers put the GCC countries in the top 10 in the region for Covid-19 cyberattacks.
"No one knows how long the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic impact will last," Mennie said. "Companies will likely need to support secure remote-work environments for quite some time. Some countries and regions that have endured the pandemic's first wave aren't lifting restrictions for fear of a second wave. Considering the current threat landscape, organisations should urgently reassess their information security capabilities in the short, medium and long-term, so that they can implement robust preventive and detective technical measures against the growing coronavirus-related attacks."

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