Coronavirus: NCSC Takedown Of Hundreds Of Scam Covid-19 Shops

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UK cyber defender NCSC takes down 2,000 Coronavirus scams last month – launches ‘cyber aware’ campaign to mitigate threats

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a part of GCHQ, has urged the general public to report Coronavirus related email scams, as an online security campaign launches.

The NCSC began operations in October 2016, and it acts as the front-line base for providing government organisations and UK-based businesses with advice on how to defend against cyber threats.

Earlier this month it and the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency warned that state-backed hackers and online criminals are exploiting the Coronavirus pandemic. In the UK, the NCSC detected more UK government branded scams relating to Covid-19 than any other subject.

coronavirus Image credit: World Health Organisation
Image credit: World Health Organisation

Reporting service

And now the NCSC, concerned that criminals could look to capitalise on increased use of Internet devices, has launched a ‘cyber aware’ campaign promoting behaviours to mitigate threats.

Essentially the campaign looks to offer actionable advice for people to protect passwords, accounts and devices.

“In addition to the broader campaign, the organisation has this morning published specific advice for personal and professional use of video conferencing services, with top tips on setting up your accounts, arranging a chat and protecting your device,” it said.

And the cyber protector launched an email reporting service, which the public can use to flag any suspicious activity.

The public is being advised to forward suspicious emails to report@phishing.gov.uk.

An automated program will test websites flagged as a result, and block those determined to be suspicious.

How will businesses ensure post-Covid-19, that their organisation is safe and secure? Read our guide.

Scam takedowns

And the NCSC said it is building up its existing takedown services, which have already removed more than 2,000 online scams related to coronavirus in the last month.

This includes NCSC taking down 471 fake online shops selling fraudulent coronavirus related items. It has also removed 555 malware distribution sites set up to cause significant damage to any visitors.

Other takedowns included 200 phishing sites seeking personal information such as passwords or credit card details; as well as 832 advance-fee frauds where a large sum of money is promised in return for a set-up payment.

“Technology is helping us cope with the coronavirus crisis and will play a role helping us out of it – but that means cyber security is more important than ever,” explained NCSC chief executive Officer Ciaran Martin.

“With greater use of technology, there are different ways attackers can harm all of us,” said Martin. “But everyone can help to stop them by following the guidance campaign we have launched today. But even with the best security in place, some attacks will still get through.”

“That’s why we have created a new national reporting service for suspicious emails – and if they link to malicious content, it will be taken down or blocked,” said Martin. “By forward messages to us, you will be protecting the UK from email scams and cyber crime.”

The reporting service was welcomed by the government.

“Criminals are seeking to exploit our greater use of emails, video conferencing and other technologies for their advantage,” said Minister for Security James Brokenshire. “It’s despicable that they are using the coronavirus outbreak as cover to try to scam and steal from people in their homes. We all have a part to play in seeing they don’t succeed.”

“I encourage everyone to follow the Cyber Aware advice and to use the Suspicious Email Reporting Service,” said Brokenshire. “They provide important new ways in which we can protect ourselves as well as our families and businesses.”

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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