Tech

Criminals and merchants flock to coronavirus website names

Cybercriminals and speculators looking to cash in on widespread anxiety are fuelling a boom in internet domain names that refer to the coronavirus outbreak — many of which could be used for criminal activity, experts warn.

One example of the gold rush: Coronavirus.be is for sale for €3,000.

Its owner, Onur Korkut, told POLITICO in an email that he bought the domain name at the end of February for as little as €12 — the standard price for a Belgian domain name.

Korkut is one of many who saw a business opportunity in the websites and domain names linked to the coronavirus and its disease, COVID-19. Other web addresses, like coronavirus.com, have been put to use by governments and health authorities for public awareness and information campaigns.

But the domain names are also a prime target for cybercriminals conducting “phishing” attempts to lure people into handing over sensitive information, or to spread misinformation about the virus.

Cybercriminals have also been spotted setting up fake websites and sending out fake emails using the logos and branding of the United Nations WHO.

Research by Recorded Future, a threat intelligence firm, showed the number of newly registered domain names with “corona,” “covid,” “pandemic” and other related terms spiked in past weeks, as Europe became the epicenter of the global pandemic.

“The amount of registering of domains linked to coronavirus is a sign that cybercriminal actors are preparing,” said Staffan Truvé, chief technology officer at Recorded Future. “You can see a huge increase,” he said.

The intelligence firms data showed the domain names drew close to no particular interest before January 19, 2020 but spiked after that. By the end of February, over 1,000 new corona-related domains were being registered every day. By mid March that number had reached up to 6,000.

Truvé said not all domains would be used for criminal or illicit activities: “Of course there are all kinds of legit businesses that sell handwashing or other things that also sell these kinds of things.”

But the figures match reports that the threat of phishing attacks, scams and hacking was going up sharply.

Domains referring to the pandemic are a hot commodity for cybercriminals looking to lure people into handing over passwords and account details.

Cybercriminals have also been spotted setting up fake websites and sending out fake emails using the logos and branding of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as national health ministries and authorities, POLITICO Read More – Source

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