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How Criminals Are Benefiting From the COVID-19 Crisis

By Brittany Haynes on Mar 16, 2020

Editor Note: Understanding the importance of this timely topic and to ensure that research is made available to the wider academic community, IGI Global has made a sample of related articles and chapters complimentary to access. View the end of this article to freely access this critical research.

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the coronavirus (COVID-19) as a pandemic, due to the increase in confirmed cases of individuals who have contracted the virus worldwide. As governments around the world are enacting travel bans, quarantines, and educating citizens about preventative measures, individuals are panicking as grocery stores and markets are running out of hand sanitizer and other essential products; however, there is another malicious force at work looking to take advantage of the panic surrounding COVID-19.

An article from SC Media covers this latest threat, which comes in the form of a fake email being sent from hackers impersonating the WHO that provides “useful guidelines and updates” around COVID-19. However, when recipients open the information, it downloads a trojan (malware often disguised as legitimate software) onto the device to steal their personal information. This is one of many phishing scams surrounding COVID-19 with other online scams being discovered, including robocalls, fake medical supply store websites, and more.

With these increasing phishing and cyber threats in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest research content is available, including Criminal Activities and the Deep Web (3 Volumes) (IGI Global). This is a critical scholarly resource that offers strategies for the prediction and prevention of online criminal activity and examines methods for safeguarding internet users and their data from being tracked or stalked.

Criminal Activities and the Deep Web (3 Volumes)
Edited by Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, D.B.A (Executive Editor of IGI Global, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 | Pages: 1,162 | ISBN: 9781522597155 | EISBN: 9781522597162

Provides the most diverse findings and new methodologies for monitoring and regulating the use of online tools as well as hidden areas of the internet, including the deep and dark web...Learn More.

About the Phishing Scams

According to Prof. Ping Wang, from Robert Morris University, USA, and Prof. Anteneh T. Girma, from the University of District of Columbia, USA, in their chapter “Online Phishing and Solutions” found within the publication Criminal Activities and the Deep Web, “Phishing is primarily a social engineering attack that exploits human vulnerabilities due to lack of user awareness and protection.”1 In this case, the cyber hackers are exploiting the panic and concern over COVID-19.

According to the SC Media article, researchers at MalwareHunterTeam discovered the scam, which claims to contain coronavirus information from the WHO. These emails direct recipients to open an attached file to review important health information, and they are encouraged to reach out to an attacker-controlled email address regarding grants and donations toward the COVID-19. This email scam then “distributes the GuLoader malicious downloader, which in turn installs the FormBook information-stealing trojan.” The trojan is able to copy clipboard contests, keylog, and extract data from HTTP sessions, and more, enabling hackers to steal financial, website logins, as well as other critical private information.

This is not the only COVID-19 phishing scam individuals should be wary of. The general public should be aware of the scams below:

  • Other WHO and Official Organization Impersonation Emails: The same article refers to another WHO impersonation email, which contains a similar attachment with safety measures. Clicking on the button at the end of the email takes users to a phishing website to obtain personal information.
  • A Weaponized COVID-19 Map: Cyberattackers continue to take advantage of this pandemic with a “weaponized coronavirus map app that infects victims with a variant of the information-stealing AZORult malware.” The online map may look legitimate by showing an image of the world with red dots depicting virus outbreaks, but it contains malware with the ability to steal credentials, sensitive financial information, and more.
  • False Claims About COVID-19 Affecting Your Area: Another scam tells recipients that the virus has spread to their home cities and directs the user to enter their email passwords to learn more, allowing hackers to steal that information.
  • Robocalls and Texts: As schools and municipalities are using robocalls to inform the public about COVID-19, hackers are creating robocalls and texts trying to obtain money and private information.

How to Protect Yourself Against These Scams

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has issued warnings to citizens regarding these types of scams. Individuals are encouraged to do the following:

  • Avoid clicking on links and opening attachments in unsolicited emails
  • Rely only on credible and official sources for COVID-19 information
  • Avoid revealing personal and financial information in emails
  • Confirm a charity is legitimate before making a donation

Additionally, according to the advisory, citizens should "exercise caution in handling any email with a COVID-19-related subject line, attachment, or hyperlink, and be wary of social media pleas, texts, or calls related to COVID-19.”

According to their chapter, Profs. Ping Wang and Anteneh Girma state, "awareness education and training is critical to the prevention of malware phishing. However, some technical and security implementations at the organization level are helpful solutions as well...Moving applications, such as Microsoft Office applications, from local installations to the cloud can provide centralized and more secure control and management of application installation, updates and data management. In addition, regular implementations and use of firewalls, malware scans, and intrusion detection and prevention systems will help prevent and minimize malware phishing attacks."1

For more information regarding the safe guards individuals can take against these threats, view additional CISA risk management insights on this situation here. This document contains actions for infrastructure protection, supply chains, organizations, and workforce and consumers.

Additionally, the publication featured in this article, Criminal Activities and the Deep Web (3 Volumes) (ISBN: 9781522597155| EISBN:  9781522597162), edited by Mehdi Khosrow-Pour D.B.A., Executive Editor of IGI Global, USA, is currently available both in print and electronic format through IGI Global’s Online Bookstore at a 20% discount, and are featured in IGI Global’s InfoSci®-Books database (5,300+ e-books). Recommend this publication, the InfoSci-Books database, and the InfoSci-Journals database (185+ e-journals) to your library to have access to this critical research as well as thousands of other research resources, including the chapters and articles below.

Complimentary Research Articles and Chapters on Phishing, Cybercrime, and Cybersecurity:

In response to the timeliness and importance of this topic, we have made all of the below articles and chapters complimentary to access. As such, please feel free to integrate these resources into your research and share them across your network.

  • Online Phishing and Solutions
    Prof. Ping Wang (Robert Morris University, USA) and Prof. Anteneh T. Girma (University of District of Columbia, USA)
    Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 14

  • Crime Hidden in Email Spam
    Prof. Szde Yu (Wichita State University, USA)
    Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 13

  • Privacy and Security Challenges in the Internet of Things
    Prof. Fernando Almeida (Polytechnic Institute of Gaya, Portugal) and Prof. Justino Lourenço (Polytechnic Institute of Gaya, Portugal)
    Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 14

    View All Chapters and Articles on This Topic

    The “View All Chapters and Articles on This Topic” navigates to IGI Global’s InfoSci-Demo Account, which provides a sample of the IGI Global content available through IGI Global’s InfoSci-Books (5,300+ e-books) and InfoSci-Journals (185+ e-journals) databases. If interested in having full access to this peer-reviewed research content, recommend these valuable research tools to your library.

    For Journalists Interested in Additional Trending Research:

    Contact IGI Global’s Marketing Team at marketing@igi-global.com or 717-533-8845 ext. 100 to access additional peer-reviewed resources to integrate into your latest news stories.


Featured Publications Surrounding Phishing, Cybercrime, and Cybersecurity:


Learn More
Recommend to Library
Criminal Activities and the Deep Web (3 Volumes)
Mehdi Khosrow-Pour D.B.A. (Executive Editor of IGI Global, USA)

Copyright: © 2020 | Pages: 1,162 | ISBN: 9781522597155 | EISBN: 9781522597162

This three-volume set provides the most diverse findings and new methodologies for monitoring and regulating the use of online tools as well as hidden areas of the internet, including the deep and dark web. Highlighting a wide range of topics such as cyberbullying, online hate speech, and hacktivism, this book will offer strategies for the prediction and prevention of online criminal activity and examine methods for safeguarding internet users and their data from being tracked or stalked, making it an invaluable addition to academic, corporate, and government libraries.

About the Editor: Dr. Mehdi Khosrow-Pour has decades of experience and expertise editing authoritative major reference works and scholarly journals. Some of his most recognizable career achievements have been editing the five-volume Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, First Edition (2005) which has now led up to the Fifth Edition set for release in July of 2020.  He also served as Editor-in-Chief of the three-volume Encyclopedia of Criminal Activities and the Deep Web (February 2020), the two-volume Encyclopedia of E-Commerce, E-Government, and Mobile Commerce (March 2006), along with over 24 major reference works. Furthermore, he is the Founding Editor-in-Chief of four highly indexed journals, the Information Resources Management Journal, the Journal of Electronic Commerce in Organizations, the Journal of Cases on Information Technology, and the Journal of Information Technology Research.

Learn More
Recommend to Library
Legal Regulations, Implications, and Issues Surrounding Digital Data
Prof. Margaret Jackson (RMIT University, Australia) and Prof. Marita Shelly (RMIT University, Australia)

Copyright: © 2020 | Pages: 300 | ISBN: 9781799831303 | EISBN: 9781799831327

This forthcoming scholarly publication assists readers in understanding the current technology they are using, how digital data is being used by governments and organizations, and the current legal issues surrounding these areas that set out challenges in everyday life. Highlighting topics such as data protection, cybercrime, and privacy, this book is ideal for lawyers, academicians, IT specialists, policymakers, cybersecurity professionals, law professionals, researchers, academicians, and students.


Learn More
Recommend to Library
Utilization of New Technologies in Global Terror: Emerging Research and Opportunities
Prof. Emily B. Stacey (Swansea University, UK)

Copyright: © 2019 | Pages: 141 | ISBN: 9781522588764 | EISBN: 9781522588771

This scholarly publication explores new developments in technological advancements and the progression of terror organizations while also examining non-government activist organizations and their new role in protecting internet freedom and combating cyberterrorism. Featuring relevant topics such as social media, cyber threats, and counterterrorism, this publication will benefit government officials, political scientists, policymakers, researchers, academicians, and graduate students interested in political science, mass communication, and cyberwarfare.


Learn More
Recommend to Library
Cybersecurity Education for Awareness and Compliance
Prof. Ismini Vasileiou (University of Plymouth, UK) and Prof. Steven Furnell (University of Plymouth, UK)

Copyright: © 2019 | Pages: 306 | ISBN: 9781522578475 | EISBN: 9781522578482

This scholarly publication explores frameworks and models for teaching cybersecurity literacy in order to deliver effective training and compliance to organizational staff so that they have a clear understanding of what security education is, the elements required to achieve it, and the means by which to link it to the wider goal of good security behavior. Split across four thematic sections (considering the needs of users, organizations, academia, and the profession, respectively), the chapters will collectively identify and address the multiple perspectives from which action is required.


Learn More
Recommend to Library
The Changing Scope of Technoethics in Contemporary Society
Prof. Rocci Luppicini (University of Ottawa, Canada)

Copyright: © 2018 | Pages: 403 | ISBN: 9781522550945 | EISBN: 9781522550952

This scholarly publication examines the existing intellectual platform within the field of technoethics. Featuring coverage on a broad range of topics such as ethical perspectives on internet safety, technoscience, and ethical hacking communication, this book is geared towards academicians, researchers, and students seeking current research on domains of technoethics.


Learn More
Recommend to Library
Cybersecurity Breaches and Issues Surrounding Online Threat Protection
Prof. Michelle Moore (George Mason University, USA)

Copyright: © 2017 | Pages: 408 | ISBN: 9781522519416 | EISBN: 9781522519423

This scholarly publication is an essential reference source for the latest scholarly research on the various types of unauthorized access or damage to electronic data. Featuring extensive coverage across a range of relevant perspectives and topics, such as robotics, cloud computing, and electronic data diffusion, this publication is ideally designed for academicians, researchers, computer engineers, graduate students, and practitioners seeking current research on the threats that exist in the world of technology.


View All Publications With Content Related to This Topic

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To view all IGI Global titles related to COVID-19, download the comprehensive title list:

Download Comprehensive COVID-19 Title List (Excel)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of IGI Global.


About IGI Global: Founded in 1988, IGI Global, an international academic publisher, is commitment to producing the highest quality research (as an active full member of the Committee on Publication Ethics “COPE”) and ensuring the timely dissemination of innovative research findings through an expeditious and technologically advanced publishing processes. Through their commitment to supporting the research community ahead of profitability, and taking a chance on virtually untapped topic coverage, IGI Global has been able to collaborate with over 100,000+ researchers from some of the most prominent research institutions around the world to publish the most emerging, peer-reviewed research across 350+ topics in 11 subject areas including business, computer science, education, engineering, social sciences, and more. To learn more about IGI Global, click here.


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1Wang, P., & Girma, A. T. (2020). Online Phishing and Solutions. In M. Khosrow-Pour D.B.A. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Criminal Activities and the Deep Web (pp. 837-850). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. doi:10.4018/978-1-5225-9715-5.ch056

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