COVID-19: A BOON FOR CYBER CRIMINALS


Author: Neeta Saini, Jaipur National University

Editor: Naman Joshi, Delhi University


INTRODUCTION

One of the most devasting and immense humanitarian crisis pandemic called corona virus (COVID19) outbreak has shaken the world. It has forced individuals to cuddle new practices such as maintaining social distancing, use of masks and sanitizers, remote working and work from home. It has not only overwhelmed individuals life but organizations as well. Government of different countries are trying to re-evaluate their economic policies in order to ensure stability within the country. Apart from these impacts, the pandemic generated a unique and secondary significant threat to a technology driven society i.e. Cyber crime. Since the outbreak, there has been a frequent increase in number of cyber attacks and scams.


Cyber crime can be defined as a crime done by the way of computer or internet. According to the UK's Crown Prosecution Services (CPS), Cyber crime can be broadly categorized as:

1.Cyber dependent crime - It is an offence that can only be committed using a computer, computer networks or other forms of information communication technology. For example: Hacking, Malware and Denial of service.


2.Cyber enabled crime - It is an offence which can be increased in scale or reach by use of computers, computer networks or other forms of informations communications technology. For example: Phishing, Pharming, Extortion and Financial fraud.[1]


The COVID 19 pandemic has emerged as a challenge for business individuals and organizations to adapt technological means in order to continue their working. Today people are more dependent on information and communication technology- their data centres, cloud systems, departmental servers and digital devices to ensure their connection with their remote employees. On one hand, this pandemic has strengthened and re-shaped society's dependency on information technology but on other hand, it has become a threat to cyber security. Cyber criminals are using COVID 19 as an capitalizing opportunity.

Impact of COVID 19 on Cyber Security


· Hike Internet use leads to increase security risks - Due to COVID 19 curfews, people around the world are using digital platforms, information channels, social media, cloud services, emails, conference calls, video conferencing tools for different purposes like business, education, health services etc. more then ever. According to the recent internet usage statistics: in mid March, Frankfurt based internet exchange DE-CIX, at which the data flows of various internet service providers and converge and it is the world's biggest based on data traffic, reported a peak data traffic of 9,1 Terabit (TBit) per second. This is roughly equivalent to the data volume of 1.800 downloaded HD films. This record level is the biggest jump in data traffic from the previous peak of 8,3 TBit that the company has ever recorded.[2]


Generally the new internet users are more prone to cyber crimes as compared to the experienced ones. They are unaware of ethical and unethical sites. There are certain websites which try to manipulate people in one or the other manner in order to secure their personal details. Like recently, it was in news that the zoom, Cisco WebEx and Microsoft teams, the video conferencing apps hacks personal details of individuals.


· Cyber attacks on health care and research institutions - Currently, various countries had reported cyber attacks on their research organizations. Recently USA, has claimed that Russia has sponsored some hackers in order to break their state and local government network and are successful as well and US hospitals are attacked with ransom ware by Eastern European criminals. As You all know, that nations are under a race to develop a COVID 19 vaccine which might be one of the reasons for attack as hackers are trying to evaluate progress in this respect. For example, a laboratory that was ready to test a potential vaccine against the corona virus was became the victim of the ransom ware attack carried out by the established group of cyber criminals.[3]

When launching a Cyber attack on hospitals, criminals are trying to obtain data related to demographic, financial information in order to obtain money with digital identity data. Even criminals use such malware to encrypt the stored data of their victims in order to blackmail afterwards.


· State sponsored Hackers - At this crucial time, states themselves are hiring hackers or we can say crackers in order to obtain information like the increase in number of corona virus cases around the world, drugs used by different nations, policies and methods adapted by different countries to curb the spread of corona virus. This information can provide key strategic benefits for fighting the pandemic. For example, In March 2020 World Health Organization had reported about a spear- Phishing emails believed to be originated in Iran. In mid- May the US American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cyber security and Infrastructure security agency (CISA) together warned against group of hackers linked to China and "non traditional collectors".[4]


Conclusion

In this era of COVID 19, it is essential to curb the cyber attacks and scams. This can only be done by enhancing the cyber security measures and making the people aware of such cyber attacks and scams. Cyber security can be defined as a practice to defend the computers, servers, mobile devices, electronic systems, networks and data from malicious attacks.

Large scale campaigns should be raised by the government highlighting the dangers posed by Phishing mails, expansion of digital literacy programs in schools and universities. For example various organisations had hosted webinars and conferences to aware people upon the increasing number of cyber violation cases like UN Women in collaboration with the India Future Foundation hosted a Webinar on “Cyber Crime Trend & Digital Safety amidst COVID-19 Pandemic”, focusing on promoting a safe, gender responsive and equitable cyber space, especially during COVID 19 and many more.


Individuals need to be more careful while suffering different websites and not to share personal details. The only thing we can do is to collaborate with public and private sectors in order to curb this.

[1] "Cybercrime - The Crown Prosecution Service." 26 Sep. 2019, https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/cybercrime-prosecution-guidance. Accessed 4 Nov. 2020. [2] "The impact of COVID-19 on cyber crime and state-sponsored ...." https://www.kas.de/documents/252038/7995358/The+impact+of+COVID-19+on+cyber+crime+and+state-sponsored+cyber+activities.pdf/b4354456-994b-5a39-4846-af6a0bb3c378?version=1.0&t=1591354291674. Accessed 4 Nov. 2020. [3] "The impact of COVID-19 on cyber crime and state-sponsored ...." https://www.kas.de/documents/252038/7995358/The+impact+of+COVID-19+on+cyber+crime+and+state-sponsored+cyber+activities.pdf/b4354456-994b-5a39-4846-af6a0bb3c378?version=1.0&t=1591354291674. Accessed 4 Nov. 2020. [4] "The impact of COVID-19 on cyber crime and state-sponsored ...." https://www.kas.de/documents/252038/7995358/The+impact+of+COVID-19+on+cyber+crime+and+state-sponsored+cyber+activities.pdf/b4354456-994b-5a39-4846-af6a0bb3c378?version=1.0&t=1591354291674. Accessed 4 Nov. 2020.

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