Cyber criminals using coronavirus panic to steal data

Organised gangs of cyber criminals are exploiting the public's panic over coronavirus to launch attacks designed to steal people’s data, the National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned.

The NCA said it had already seen instances of coronavirus-themed malicious apps and websites, as well as email phishing attacks aimed at stealing personal and financial information.

It urged people to be extra vigilant when seeking out online information relating to the pandemic and to ensure they are following online safety advice.

City of London Police has also issued an alert that criminals are using the coronavirus outbreak to facilitate fraud and cyber crime. 

Reported cases include criminals posing as health officials in an attempt to get victims to disclose personal information.

Police have already arrested and charged a man in Sussex for attempting to send 60 fake coronavirus treatment kits to France, the US and other parts of the UK.

Steve Rodhouse, NCA director general, said: “Our mission in leading the fight against serious and organised crime has never been more important and our work continues.

“We recognise that the Covid-19 outbreak may provide opportunities for criminals and we are monitoring intelligence and crime trends to ensure that we, and the whole law enforcement system, can react as needed.”

The NCA said it was also continuing its work to protect children from abuse and exploitation online. One of its investigations resulted in the sentencing of a man from Darlington for making more than 45,000 abuse images.

With schools closing around the country, ensuring the safety of children online is becoming more important than ever.

“Like all organisations, we are having to make some adjustments to how we operate in light of the outbreak, but we are an operational law enforcement organisation responding to a national security threat,” Rodhouse said.

“The NCA is providing services that directly keep the public safe and also allow others across law enforcement to do the same and these will be maintained throughout the pandemic.

“We are also working closely with law enforcement partners both in the UK and abroad – many of whom are similarly affected - to ensure that our ability to cooperate is maintained and that we continue to work together to protect the public.

Last week, the National Cyber Security Centre urged employers to take strong measures to ensure their cyber security is up to scratch with most workers now working from home on potentially unsecured devices.

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