UK Decries Surge in COVID-19-Related Scams, Shuts Down Malicious Online Markets

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In Brief
  • The British government is dealing with the spike in coronavirus-related scam operations

  • U.S. intelligence authorities have reported similar trends.

  • Nearly every individual or organization using the internet is acutely vulnerable.

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The United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has continued to raise awareness and warn citizens about the threat of coronavirus-related scams.

The national internet authority has had to shut down over 2,0000 online scams related to the virus in just the past month. [BBC]

This included a staggering 471 fake e-commerce stores selling fake Coronavirus materials, including face masks, fake vaccines, and necessities in short supply.

COVID-19 Scams Run Amok

So far, the government has taken down hundreds of phishing scams, along with advance-fee frauds, where a significant amount of money is exchanged for a one-off payment.

James Brokenshire, the Minister for Security, told the BBC that criminals have predominantly targeted email and video conferencing platforms, along with other technologies that have massively adopted. Beyond online schemes, some of these malicious actors have taken their brazen acts to a whole new level.

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) confirmed that several scammers had impersonated NHS officials, and were asking residents for donations.

Governments across the world have had to deal with similar multi-pronged attacks, with both individuals and organizations at acute risk.

As BeInCrypto previously reported, there’s been an increase in targeted attacks from foreign state-sponsored hacker groups on pharmaceutical companies conducting research on COVID-19.

Tonya Ugoretz, a Deputy Assistant Director at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), made the revelation at a panel discussion held by The Aspen Institute. Ugoretz also pointed out that the Internet Crime Complaint Center is now getting between 3,000 and 4,000 cybercrime complaints a day — an astonishing 400 percent increase since the pandemic began.

Still Some Honor Among Thieves

At this point, private individuals, medical facilities, and even international agencies are all vulnerable and are beginning to ramp up security.

Of course, the vast majority of these attacks have been targeted at unsuspecting individuals. Whether it’s a malware attack, a phishing scam, or someone looking to profit off fake coronavirus-related supplies, the goal remains the same — taking advantage of widespread ignorance and panic to profit.

The scam wave has become so intense that several marketplaces on the dark web have also stepped up against coronavirus-related deals. Dark web journalist Eileen Ormsby tweeted earlier this month that Monopoly Market, one of the dark web’s most popular stores, has banned the sale of purported COVID-19 vaccines.

In the tweet, the marketplace’s administrator promised to ban any vendor caught peddling COVID-19 vaccines.

The cybersecurity firm Bleeping Computer also reached out to several ransomware operators, who promised to stop attacking medical facilities during the pandemic.

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Based in the UK, Jimmy has been following the development of blockchain for several years, and he is optimistic about its potential to democratize the financial system. He's an economic researcher with outstanding hands-on and heads-on experience in Macroeconomic finance analysis, forecasting, and planning. He has honed his skills having worked cross-continental as a finance analyst, which gives him inter-cultural experience. He has a strong passion for regulation and macroeconomic trends as it allows him to peek under the global bonnet to see how the world works. Follow him on Twitter: @adejimi

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