coronavirus scam webCybercriminals are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to gain access to confidential personal and financial information, warns David Finkelstein, St. Luke’s Information Security Director. He encourages everyone to be wary of on-line ads and websites that offer COVID-19 cures or preventions. “The COVID-19 pandemic creates a perfect environment for unscrupulous individuals,” Finkelstein says. “Many people are afraid and desperately looking for ways to protect themselves and their families. As a result, they are more vulnerable to falling for a hacker’s trick than they might be during more typical times. Unfortunately, there are no easy fixes for COVID-19, so be sure to get your information from reputable sources, like www.sluhn.org and www.CDC.gov.”

Hackers use social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, email, on-line ads, and fictitious websites, to trick people into providing usernames and passwords. Often, with this information, they can gain entry into an individual’s computer files and find such information as addresses, birth dates, and social security numbers, as well as credit card and bank account numbers. They can also launch malware on the individual’s computer.

“The increased number of people working from home can also make employers more vulnerable to cyberattacks, too,” he says. “It’s no longer business as usual.”
Some hackers use a tactic called "phishing," a cybercrime in which a target or targets are contacted by email, telephone, or text message, by someone posing as a legitimate individual or institution to lure individuals into providing sensitive data. If the individual is working on their company’s information system, they might accidentally enable the cybercriminal access to that system, too.
A popular trick of cybercriminals is to pose as an executive and send a fictitious email, often with an attachment or a link to a website. The names of company executives are often available through a Google search or on the company’s website.

“Before opening emails or attachments from people outside of your usual contacts, double-check the email address,” he says. “If it doesn’t look right, delete it. If it’s a suspicious work-related email, contact your company’s information services department immediately.”

As always, to protect your information:

  • Do not provide your credentials, usernames, or passwords, unless you are confident of the source.
  • Do not open email attachments from unknown sources.
  • Do not click on a link that takes you to a website, even those that appear to be reliable.
  • Use Google or other favorite search engine to find websites and then type the URL into your web browser instead.
  • Keep your computer, router firmware, and web browser up-to-date.
  • Make sure you have security software installed and keep it current.
  • Install software updates promptly.

For information on the COVID-19 pandemic, visit www.sluhn.org/covid-19.

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