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COVID-related cybercrime has resulted in a 15-fold uptick in scam takedowns

The pandemic has led to greater reliance on digital systems and consequently cybercrime is up. But there are protective measures to take, says a leading expert.

US federal agencies warned hackers were targeting the business sector using malware that can lead to ransomware attacks - © AFP
US federal agencies warned hackers were targeting the business sector using malware that can lead to ransomware attacks - © AFP

According to the UK National Cybersecurity Centre (NCSC), COVID-19 related cybercrime has resulted in a 15-fold uptick in scam takedowns. Overall, more than 700,500 campaigns were taken down, accounting for 1,448,214 URLs. The NCSC has also put efforts into reducing issues associated with smart cities.

As reported in The Guardian, this announcement represents positive news in terms of signalling progress being made in terms of keeping pace with the major surge in scams online.

However, there are areas where more effort is needed, according to Mark Crichton, who is the Senior Director of Security Product Management at OneSpan. Crichton tells Digital Journal that as we emerge from the pandemic we should not get complacent.

Crichton  begins by setting the ‘scam scene’, noting: “We’ve seen a huge number of COVID related scams over the past year and even as we started to emerge out of the pandemic in the UK, we’re not out of the water yet in terms of fraudulent scams targeting consumers.”

Indeed, we should prepare for a national upswing says Crichton: “We’ll start to see cybercriminals switch their focus onto new trends like holidays abroad as restrictions begin to lift.”

Crichton does acknowledge the progress that has been made: “Despite this, it’s promising to see that while scams have surged, we’ve increased the number scam takedowns. But inevitably, with the vast number of scams from cybercriminals, some will still slip through the net.”

In terms of what people can do, Crichton advises: “Consumers need to have absolute certainty that any unsolicited offering is from a trusted brand by checking the senders email address or phone number. If the communication seems suspicious even in the slightest, they should not click on any links or share any sensitive information.”

In terms of big institutions, Crichton says: “As for banks, they are the final line of defence against fraud, so as scams like these continue to be widespread online, it is essential that they are investing in dynamic fraud solutions that analyse vast amounts of data with machine learning and advanced risk analytics to identify abnormal user behaviour in real time.2

Advanced technology can help to build the required wall of protection, adds Crichton: “We also must encourage more use of biometrics. New risk-based multifactor authentication with fingerprint, face, or iris recognition will help free us from the burden of unsecure passwords and enable a safer digital world.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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