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Abstract and Figures

Society as we know it is experiencing one of the worst pandemics of this century. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact in the world and has grinded several countries to a standstill already. During these times cyber security is of even more importance, as the environment is just right for cyber criminals to strike. This paper examines the cyber security threat landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic. The paper takes a snapshot in time as to where we are now, and how has COVID-19 impacted the cyber security threat landscape so far. Society has seen a massive increase on the front of cyber security attacks during this pandemic and this paper aims to investigate this. This paper provides all the current trends of cyber security attacks during this pandemic and how the attacks have changed between different pandemics. The impact of COVID-19 on society, from a cyber security threat landscape perspective is also provided and a discussion on why cyber security education is still of utmost importance. Education, as always, seems to be the number one means on how to prevent cyber security threats.
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COVID-19: Impact on the Cyber Security
Threat Landscape
Francois Mouton1,2[0000000188047601] and Arno de
1Noroff University College, Oslo, Norway
2University of The Western Cape, Belville, South Africa
3University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa,
Abstract. Society as we know it is experiencing one of the worst pan-
demics of this century. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive
impact in the world and has grinded several countries to a standstill
already. During these times cyber security is of even more importance,
as the environment is just right for cyber criminals to strike. This paper
examines the cyber security threat landscape during the COVID-19 pan-
demic. The paper takes a snapshot in time as to where we are now, and
how has COVID-19 impacted the cyber security threat landscape so far.
Society has seen a massive increase on the front of cyber security attacks
during this pandemic and this paper aims to investigate this. This paper
provides all the current trends of cyber security attacks during this pan-
demic and how the attacks have changed between different pandemics.
The impact of COVID-19 on society, from a cyber security threat land-
scape perspective is also provided and a discussion on why cyber security
education is still of utmost importance. Education, as always, seems to
be the number one means on how to prevent cyber security threats.
Keywords: Cyber Security Awareness ·Coronavirus ·Cyber Threat
Landscape ·Cyber Security Threat Landscape ·COVID-19 ·Social En-
gineering ·Cyber Security Education ·Cyber security.
1 Introduction
The world as we know it will never be the same. The start of the year 2020
brought along discussions about the coronavirus family of viruses and how they
are impacting our daily lives [1]. COVID-19 had a massive impact on society
as a whole at the start of 2020. The virus was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei,
China in December 2019 [2]. Subsequently, on the 11th of March 2020, the virus
has been classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) [3].
Along with the massive amount of infections across the world, it has also
brought along an era of mass hysteria and confusion. This paper is a snapshot
in time, written on the 20th of March 2020, that explores the impact the virus
has had on the cyber security landscape and how it is impacting the daily lives
2 F Mouton and A de Coning
of people. It is well known that the mass hysteria is having a massive impact in
our society and governments are putting entire countries in lock down [6–8].
The focus of this paper is to explore the exact impact the COVID-19 had
within the realm of the cyber security threat landscape of the world. There is
currently massive uncertainty amongst the general public on what is accurate
news and what is fake news. There are also corporations trying to push their
own agenda, amidst this hysteria, whilst cyber criminals are trying to profiteer
out of this pandemic.
The snapshot in time approach that this paper is taking allows one to explore
what is the current threats that the everyday people are facing 4. It also provides
general guidelines on how the situation should be handled and how can we
alleviate the imminent threats we facing. Doing projections on what is currently
seen and what we expect to happen within the coming months also has the
advantage of reflection upon in the future. Currently, the only known fact is
that there is no end-goal insight for the pandemic and that the world needs to
do something about it.
Throughout this pandemic, it is up to the cyber security specialists to do
their utmost in order to protect the general public as a public service [9]. There
is current a massive influx of cyber security attacks being launched daily against
the general public [9–12]. Something needs to be done about it, however, it might
already be too late. As several articles in the past has mentioned, education is
the key, cyber security vigilance is still massively lacking in the general public
[13]. One can also argue though, whether the world was really prepared for the
“human” virus, and quite frankly in the current situation it does honestly seem
like we were never prepared for the COVID-19 [4,5].
Section 2 provides some background on the COVID-19 and similar pandemics
the world has experienced. Section 3 investigates the cyber security threat land-
scape during the COVID-19 pandemic with the expected upcoming cyber secu-
rity attacks. Section 4 discusses the impact that COVID-19 had on the general
public, businesses, and the economy from a cyber security perspective. This
section also discusses the imminent requirement of cyber security awareness ed-
ucation, as it has become of utmost importance. Section 5 concludes the paper
with a short summary on the outcomes of this research.
2 Background
At the time of writing, the virus has been known about for just over three
months and yet there is still massive confusion on what the virus is actually
called. The WHO has classified coronaviruses (CoV) as a large family of viruses
that can cause several illnesses, ranging from the common cold up to the more se-
vere illness named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) and Middle
4The authors are fully aware that there may be some minor errors within the paper
and that some references might be incomplete. This is due to the time constraint of
the submission and taking this snapshot as close to the submission date as possible.
These will all be corrected prior to final submission
COVID-19: Impact on the Cyber Security Threat Landscape 3
East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) [14, 15]. The actual disease
that was classified as a pandemic is the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) which
is a new strain of the CoV family. The virus that is responsible for causing the
COVID-19 has been classified by the WHO as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syn-
drome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) [16]. This has caused two different names
floating around in the media, however, the WHO has clearly stated that correct
classification for the disease is COVID-19 [16–19, 37, 38].
Over the past few years, that has been a couple of other pandemics. At this
point in time there is still other ongoing pandemics with regards to the Middle
East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and HIV/AIDS. Ebola is the most recent
pandemic which has been deemed as being under control [20, 21]. The term under
control is used in the sense that is no longer seen as a crisis and that the virus
is under control. Ebola cases still occur and the last outbreak has been reported
on the 1st of August 2018 [22]. At this point in time, the last confirmed case of
Ebola was recorded on the 17th of February 2020, and thus the classification of
under control can be used [22].
There have been worse pandemics, such as the Bubonic Plague, Small Pox
and the Spanish Flu which killed several million people. During these pandemics,
there was less of global impact and much more isolated impact, due to travelling
vast distances being uncommon and communication across the globe being sig-
nificantly less prevalent [25]. During the past few months there has been several
detailed images depicting a summary of the pandemics in a very well structured
manner. A great example of this can be seen in Fig.1.
Unfortunately, the outbreak of Ebola also had several cyber security threats
related to it [24]. We are now suffering the same consequences, as to what we
had during the Ebola outbreak. The only ”positive” we have during Ebola was
that is was mostly isolated to the West Africa region, and it did not spread as
global as what COVID-19 is doing. Even though Ebola is deemed to be under
control, there is no mention that the outbreaks are over and people should stay
vigilant. This can potentially be the same trajectory for the COVID-19 outbreak
within the upcoming years, thus cyber security threats will not be a thing of the
past for many years to come. Ebola has led to losses of over 53 billion USD in
both social and economic losses in West Africa [23].
In a similar fashion, current statistics show that Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome (SARS) and MERS has a much higher fatality rate with SARS hav-
ing a 10% fatality rate, MERS 35% with COVID-19 2.2% . The infection rate
of COVID-19 is however much quicker when compared to SARS and MERS.
Infection of the first 1000 people took 903 days for MERS, 130 days for SARS,
and COVID-19 took only 48 days [26].
The following section, section 3, focuses on how all of these pandemics are
being used to with regards to the cyber security threat landscape.
4 F Mouton and A de Coning
Fig. 1. History of Death Tolls during Pandemics [34]
COVID-19: Impact on the Cyber Security Threat Landscape 5
3 Cyber Security Threat Landscape
In a world where panic is rife and the need to feel informed, it provides cyber
criminals a massive platform of unsuspecting victims. Social engineering is at its
peak in this time as it prey’s on individuals whom are at a heightened emotional
state [27]. Social engineering is defined as “the science of using social interaction
as a means to persuade an individual or an organisation to comply with a specific
request from an attacker where either the social interaction, the persuasion or
the request involves a computer-related entity” [28]
As clearly stated by various authors [30–33], the human element is the ‘glitch’
or vulnerable element within security systems. Unfortunately it is the basic
‘good’ characteristics of human nature that make people vulnerable to the tech-
niques used by social engineers, as the latter exploit various psychological vul-
nerabilities to manipulate the individual to disclose the requested information
[30, 33].
In these coming days, most organisations will and have already requested
their workforce to work from home where possible. Several countries, such as
Italy and Spain has gone into full lock down forcing people to stay indoors. This
has caused people to become fully reliant on technology for both communication,
news, entertainment and social interaction. According to the authors, the main
contribution to the increase in the cyber security threat landscape is there mere
fact that:
1. Society has a heightened dependency on digital infrastructure;
2. Working from home has not been fully trailed by all organisations before;
3. The massive reliance on the online connectivity and network infrastructure
of every country;
4. The curious nature of the human psyche, especially in times of uncertainty;
5. Society is spending most of their time consuming online services, which in
turn could lead to riskier behaviour;
6. Individuals whom are not necessarily ‘tech savvy’ have to suddenly become
accustomed to using technology for their daily lives.
All of these factors have caused a massive influx in the presence of cyber
attacks. Some of the typical cyber attacks, have also moved over to the physical
realm where criminals are using social engineering techniques to infiltrate peo-
ple’s houses. The rest of this section is dedicated to discussing each of the social
engineering techniques that are utilised within this new cyber security threat
3.1 Phishing
Phishing is probably the number one item that has seen a massive rise during
these trying times. Society is hungry for information, or even for some form of
relief, and thus phishing is just so much more successful during these times.
Most of the examples that has been witnessed in the wild is e-mails, such as
6 F Mouton and A de Coning
from tax authorities offering victims “tax refunds” to help them cope with the
coronavirus pandemic. All they had to do was enter their name, address, phone
number, mother’s maiden name and bank card number — a clear scam [13].
The cyber attackers are also very closely following the global trends and
news. The latest phishing scam that occurred is regarding the 1000 USD to that
United States might offer to each house hold for relief during this difficult times
[41]. Even though there has been no formal decision has been made by the US
government, at the time of writing, there is already messages making the rounds
to inform people that they have been pre-approved for the funding, as depicted
in Fig.2.
Fig. 2. US grant scam sms [35]
3.2 Fake URLs
Over the past month there has been a massive increase in the procurement of
fake URLs, associated to COVID-19 [36]. Typically, the modus operandi is for
scammers to scoop up a bunch of COVID-19 related domains, and to turn them
into malicious malware injection sites. After all of the ‘good’ domains are taken,
the scammers will eventually start preying on the domains containing typos,
using words like ‘coronovirus’ instead of ‘coronavirus’.
The excerpt of the domain names that have been registered during 1st to the
2nd of March 2020, that include the name corona are as follows [36]:
COVID-19: Impact on the Cyber Security Threat Landscape 7
This clearly shows that this process in continuously ongoing and that people
should be on the lookout for fake URLs [57]. It is unfortunate that in such a mass
hysteria situation, that good URLs, such as ‘beatingcorona’ or ‘coronadetection’,
has already been taken over by individuals with malicious intent. These URLs
could have been used for good purposes, allowing people to easily locate the
correct and accurate information.
3.3 Physical Attacks
Typically, when talking about the cyber security threat landscape, people often
forget the physical attacks that still take place. These types of attacks still rely
on social engineering, however, they are based upon the mere fact that people
are already in a state of hysteria and needs assistance of some kind. There has
been reported cases within South Africa where this is an active problem.
The one matter has been reported by one of the physical security agencies,
that there are individuals posing “good citizens” and offering people free face
masks, hand sanitiser, and other products whose supplies have been stretched
thin during the coronavirus crisis. Using this technique, the “good citizens”, are
gaining physical access to victim’s households [40]. The other technique is indi-
viduals posing as people whom can help to assist to disinfect your household.
These individuals then request access to your home, as they need to spray chem-
icals in the house and asking you to wait outside whilst this process is happening
In both these cases, the cyber criminals are preying on the notion that people
are in fear and have the inherent need to stay safe. The notion of staying safe
currently, is to use cleaning products and to ensure your home is clean.
3.4 Preying on the good of people
There has also been a massive rise on individuals starting up donation webpages
where people can donate to aid researchers in finding the cure for COVID-19.
People are inherently good and always want to assist, and thus social engineers
are preying on the mere fact that people want to assist their fellow countrymen by
donating to the cause. In most of these cases, these donation pages are actually
not correctly managed and typically only the individual hosting the donation, is
profiting from the donation drive.
There has been several examples of this in the wild. One of the worst ones in
the past month is where almost 2 million USD was stolen through cryptocurrency
donation scams [12]. The attackers were smart in the sense that they asked the
victims to donate in bitcoins, as it is almost impossible to really trace where the
money ends up eventually.
8 F Mouton and A de Coning
3.5 Spreading Personal Agendas
It is of utmost concern that it is currently one of the best times to push a personal
agenda during these trying times. Several individuals are trying to profit from
this by stockpiling products and eventually trying to resell the products at a
much higher value [42]. Fortunately, several governments has put a stop to this
and price gouging has been forbidden by law [43–45]. The government is also
stepping in against individuals whom are trying to push their own products,
such as a radio presenter who promoted that his toothpaste brand could cure
COVID-19 [11]. Formidable steps are being taken against individuals, however,
it is still only after the fact where the government has identified the problem
and has stepped in.
Fortunately, the government has stopped individuals from profiteering dur-
ing this pandemic, it is very difficult to stop organisations from doing the same.
One of the biggest questions currently is whether ibuprofen can really worsen
your COVID-19 condition. There was a tweet by Olivier Veran, whom is a neu-
rologist at the Grenoble-Alpes University Hospital, that made a bold claim that
ibuprofen can worsen your condition, which was backed by an article by Lancet
[46]. After this statement has been, both the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) and the Europeans Medicine Association has invalidated these claims by
saying there is no scientific backing to this claim at the current stage [47, 48].
3.6 Spreading Misinformation
Misinformation is one of the biggest enemies to society during this pandemic.
Since the public themselves are doing a spectacular job by sharing sensational
fake news amongst one another, the cyber criminals are only required to publish
the news in a sensational manner. There has been a massive influx in fake news
articles and several companies are actively trying to resolve this [62, 63]. The
Humanitarian-to-Humanitarian (H2H) Network has invested 500 000 GBP to
fight against misinformation [60].
It has reached the point where government had to step in and the South
African government has actually placed a legal requirement to not spread fake
news. It has been made a criminal offence according to a government gazette
that has been released on the 18th of March 2020 [50].
The excerpt from the government gazette reads as follows [50]:
1. Any person who publishes any statement, through any medium, including
social media, with the intention to deceive any other person about
(a) COVID-19;
(b) COVID-19 infection status of any person; or
(c) any measure taken by the Government to address COVID-19 commits
an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment for a
period not exceeding six months, or both such fine and imprisonment.
There are several cases of spreading misinformation, but the typical ones that
are currently doing the rounds are regarding fake COVID-19 cures. These people
COVID-19: Impact on the Cyber Security Threat Landscape 9
claim to be renegade doctors repressed by the Chinese or Western governments
who already have vaccines available. In another case, a claim has been made that
the US president has made claims that a cure is available and approved by the
FDA, which was later proven to be false [49]. Several of these fake news websites,
also require users to register to view the news and thus the attack can obtain
personal information from the individual. Downloading of malicious software is
another method of how attackers attempt to steal information as discussed in
section 3.2 with emails having download links with “Safety measures” as seen in
Fig. 3. WHO phishing email [59]
3.7 Malicious Websites
One of the very first cyber attacks related to COVID-19 was regarding the fake
COVID-19 maps. The Johns Hopkins University provided one of the very first
maps which included statistics to the world. This has been a great resource to
10 F Mouton and A de Coning
society and has proven to be massively beneficial. However, since it was so pop-
ular, cyber attackers made their own ‘fake’ versions of the website that required
you to download a plugin and Fig.4 showing just how convincing the fake pages
can appear. This plugin would then in turn allow an attacker to gain remote
access to your system [51, 52].
Fig. 4. Fake map with outbreak information [61]
In another example, there has been websites masquerading as the official
communication channels, such as the WHO or Center for Disease Control (CDC)
and asking recipients to download documents containing safety tips. It has later
been found that most of these malicious websites, and the files that were sub-
sequently downloaded, contained malware designed to steal banking credentials
or to keylog people’s passwords [51, 53].
3.8 Upcoming Attacks
The importance of discussing upcoming attacks is both a way to determine how
these attacks will evolve, and what can we do in the future. Unfortunately, these
attacks are not going away any time soon. The authors predict that they will just
evolve alongside with the evolution of the pandemic. It is suggested that very
soon we will see malicious websites, fake news and phishing attempts starting to
focus on the following topics:
Your COVID-19 tests have arrived!
It is alarming to see what country X did during the outbreak, click here to
view more!
Finally, your free COVID-19 testing center has opened. Click here to make
your booking.
COVID-19: Impact on the Cyber Security Threat Landscape 11
Your family member has been hospitalised, we urgently need you to assist
with a donation.
It has honestly taken a new pandemic, to replace the cyber attacks that
related to the Ebola outbreak. Ebola outbreaks has been here for several years,
so it is suggested that there wont be foreseeable end for when cyber attacks
related to the COVID-19 pandemic will stop. The following section provides a
brief discussion on the impact the pandemic has had and what can be done from
here on wards.
4 Impact and Prevention
COVID-19 has already had a massive impact in the world. Society will most
likely never be the same after this, however, we can use the knowledge obtained
throughout the pandemic for a better future. Society unfortunately does not
always respond to any warnings, as there is typically the blas´e attitude towards
warning signs. The COVID-19 pandemic is a great example of this as Bill Gates
has clearly mentioned in one of his Ted Talks that the society as we know it is
clearly not prepared for a massive virus outbreak [4, 5].
The authors are of the opinion that the COVID-19 impact, from a cyber
security perspective, will have the largest impact in the following areas:
Inaccurate information has a more negative impact than having no in-
formation at all;
Decision makers have to make uninformed decisions, as not all informa-
tion can be trusted;
It takes a massive amount of mental effort to correct information where
people already believe the incorrect versions;
Misinformation has caused a massive amount of time that was wasted
during the pandemic.
Fear Mongering
Individuals knew they had to act, however, there was no real guidelines
on how to act when the pandemic struck;
Individuals did not have trust in the government to ensure the supply
chain of grocery stores would be kept intact, which led to panic buying;
Everyone wants to be tested for COVID-19, but this inherently puts
excessive strain on the medical industry;
Flights are cancelled everywhere and people are unsure whether they can
return to their home countries, ultimately leaving people stranded.
Business has to suddenly implement work from home policies, something
they were not prepared for at all;
Employees are less secure in their home environments as all the company
firewalls are not in place to protect them;
12 F Mouton and A de Coning
All individuals are forced to embrace technology, it is almost assumed
that everyone has the required technical skills;
Large corporations VPNs cannot handle the load to access the network
and thus minimising productivity while working from their home envi-
Interruption to businesses causes a massive strain on the economy;
Country leaders has to make far reaching decisions, in shot periods of
time that can have long lasting impacts; Examples of this is UK dropping
their interest rates by 0.50% and South Africa reduced by 1% [54, 55].
Stock market crashes leads to a massive financial losses to both busi-
nesses and individuals;
fighting economic impact by reducing interest rates.
Financial losses seems to be one of the major trends of the impact of COVID-
19 in society, from a general perspective. Travel has become a sector that has
been hit extremely hard with travel bans in effect with the airline revenue losses
estimated at 113 Billion USD [56]. These economic effects has also been felt with
stock prices, oil, and bitcoin prices all having drastic devaluation [56].
All of the negative impacts that we have experienced leads to one question,
could we have been better prepared? More specifically, could we have been better
prepared for the change in the cyber security threat landscape. Unfortunately,
and sadly so, the cyber security threat landscape has not really changed due
to the outbreak of COVID-19. The attacks we are seeing now are similar in
nature to what we had before. The only difference now is they have taken on a
new “form”, or we can even say they have only taken up a new narrative. The
attacks which has previously spoken about Ebola has merely replaced the word
Ebola with the word COVID-19.
The authors fully agree that all of a sudden there is a massive influx of cyber
security attacks, and this is totally true. The cyber criminals are utilising this
pandemic in an effort to better themselves, and they are massively succeeding.
Individuals are in a compromised emotional state and thus cyber attacks are
currently more successful. The inherent requirement for social engineering to be
successful is to ensure the target has a compromised reasoning capability whilst
under attack [29]. Individuals are currently continuously under emotional stress
which has a severely negative impact on your reasoning capability [13,29].
There are several organisations out there whom are continuously providing
society with ways they can protect themselves. All of them have similar headings
such as the following by NordVPN and CyberReason [39, 58]:
Use the right coronavirus map;
Don’t download anything (and be careful around links as well);
Keep a cool head;
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is;
Make sure you donate to the right place;
COVID-19: Impact on the Cyber Security Threat Landscape 13
Carefully examine any URL or email address you see.
Be Careful;
Watch out for shortened links;
Be wary of emails asking for confidential information;
Only download files from trusted websites.
The listed headings did not change all of a sudden now that COVID-19
pandemic is here. Cyber security is still to this day a massive crisis and something
which needs to be addressed on a continual basis. All that happened is that
people have now suddenly all been forced to embrace technology, work from
home, be vigilant on the internet and stay safe. We however sit in the era where
a large portion of society hasn’t even completed phase 1 of embracing technology.
Society utilises technology, but there are still people who only use technology
at a bare minimum. All of a sudden these people are now forced to understand
whether their internet at home can support their work activities. The authors
have personally in the past few weeks had to answer questions from family
members on whether the Internet bandwidth would be enough to work from
home. These are the same people that now need to be vigilant and stay safe on
the internet. The cyber criminals are rejoicing at the same time, as their attack
platform has increased massively.
We were not prepared for the Bubonic plague, we were not prepared for
Ebola, we were not prepared for COVID-19, we have never been prepared for
cyber security. Cyber security education is an item that should have been manda-
tory in every organisation. There is no way we could expect individuals to stay
vigilant if they did not even know the basics of technology. Education is at the
heart of this problem, all employees should receive training on how to protect
themselves on the Internet. Social engineering has time and time again shown
that the individual (the employee) is the weakest point in any organisation. Em-
ployees are now facing cyber security problems that they have never dealt with.
The authors argue that in the case where the employer the author argue that
organisations could have prepared them better for this. The authors have always
been of the opinion that employees should receive training on how to be cyber
vigilant in their own personal lives. An employee who knows how to stay safe
at home will always apply the same principles in the organisation. We could of
had a “work from home” workforce now that was fully prepared, but alas, we
are now suffering the consequences and it will surely lead to massive financial
losses to organisations in the future.
Ultimately, it is now too late to be prepared, however, we can start with
immediate prevention. Now is the time to run your cyber security programmes,
there is already massive down times, use this time wisely. The following section
concludes the paper with a short summary.
5 Conclusion
Society will take years to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, that is un-
fortunate truth. COVID-19 has brought along with it massive bouts of mass
14 F Mouton and A de Coning
hysteria, panic and confusion. All of these items had a massive impact on the
mental state of individuals and the cyber security threat landscape transformed
massively, almost overnight. There was a significant increase in cyber security
attacks as leaders were poised to make tough decisions on the future of their
countries. Society was unsure of what was happening at this time, and unsure
how to react and the cyber criminals took this opportunity to strike.
This paper focused on exploring the impact COVID-19 had on the cyber
security threat landscape of the world. This paper was written as a snapshot in
time, as this pandemic is changing everyday and the impact in the cyber security
threat landscape is changing at a rapid pace. It is at times like this the experts
in cyber security needs to come together and attempt to protect society, and
this paper is an attempt at that.
This paper explored the current cyber security threats that the world is fac-
ing amidst this pandemic. Several examples were discussed and why individuals
should be vigilant against them. The impact of COVID-19 was also briefly dis-
cussed and how the impact could have been minimised. From this research it
has been very clear that we were never prepared for this scale of a catastrophy.
Cyber security awareness is something that is still massively lacking in society,
and unfortunately society has now been forced to be more vigilant.
The time is now to focus on cyber security education, as it is right now
where it is most needed. Organisations need to start investing in their workforce
now, as the risk to the organisation has significantly increased. The workforce
is no longer behind the organisations firewalls, each employee is only behind
their own home router, with limited to no security. People need to be vigilant,
however, we require organisations to educate their workforce in an effort to
protect themselves.
Future work will be to re-evaluate this paper after the pandemic has passed
and to write a follow up paper to determine how, if any, the cyber security threat
landscape has changed.
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... provision of 'Good Samaritan' support for grocery shopping (Morton 2020) or home entertainment (Bisson 2020), were covered in the scams by the impersonation of relevant sources (supermarkets and Netflix). The impersonation of health authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic was in line with similar previous occurrences, e.g. during the 2014 Ebola outbreak or the 2016 Zika virus (RiskIQ 2020, Mouton and de Coning 2020). The public's need for information is increased during health crises (Ogbodo et al. 2020) and the initial information voids are often exploited by scammers. ...
Full-text available
The first months of the COVID-19 pandemic witnessed a surge of social engineering attacks. Although the pandemic is certainly not the first occurrence of socially disruptive circumstances that drive cybercrime, relevant academic scholarship has remained scarce. To fill this gap in literature, and propose the analytical framework of mazephishing that places particular emphasis on the importance of credible social context in the online scam ecosystem, we carried out a content analysis of (N=563) international news stories reporting on social engineering attacks. Our results indicate that criminals make heavy use of social context and impersonation to make scams seem more credible. Major themes used in the scam messages include health information, personal protective equipment, cures, financial relief and donations. Additionally, scammers diversify their use of mediums depending on the type of scam being perpetrated. Our analysis also shows a significant presence of principles of persuasion in the circulated scam attempts.
Full-text available
In December 2019, an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection occurred in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China and spread across China and beyond. On February 12, 2020, WHO officially named the disease caused by the novel coronavirus as Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Since most COVID-19 infected patients were diagnosed with pneumonia and characteristic CT imaging patterns, radiological examinations have become vital in early diagnosis and assessment of disease course. To date, CT findings have been recommended as major evidence for clinical diagnosis of COVID-19 in Hubei, China. This review focuses on the etiology, epidemiology, and clinical symptoms of COVID-19, while highlighting the role of chest CT in prevention and disease control. A full translation of this article in Chinese is available.
Full-text available
Teaser: Our review found the average R0 for 2019-nCoV to be 3.28, which exceeds WHO estimates of 1.4 to 2.5.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Social engineering is a real threat to industries in this day and age, even though its severity is extremely downplayed. The difficulty with social engineering attacks is mostly the ability to identify them. Social engineers often target call centre employees, as they are normally underpaid, under-skilled and have limited knowledge about the information technology infrastructure. These employees are, thus, seen as easy targets by the social engineer. This paper improves on a previously-proposed model, Social Engineering Attack Detection Model (SEADM), by proposing and incorporating a cognitive functioning psychological measure in order to determine the emotional state and decision-making ability of the call centre employee. The cognitive analysis combined with the social engineering attack detection model provides one with a quick and effective way to determine whether the requester is trying to manipulate an individual into disclosing information for which the requester does not have authorization.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Social engineering is a real threat to industries in this day and age even though the severity of it is extremely downplayed. The difficulty with social engineering attacks is mostly the ability to identify them. Social engineers target call centre employees, as they are normally underpaid, under skilled workers whom have limited knowledge about the information technology infrastructure. These workers are thus easy targets for the social engineer. This paper proposes a model which can be used by these workers to detect social engineering attacks in a call centre environment. The model is a quick and effective way to determine if the requester is trying to manipulate an individual into disclosing information to which the requester does not have authorization for.
Full-text available
Air, sea and land transport networks continue to expand in reach, speed of travel and volume of passengers and goods carried. Pathogens and their vectors can now move further, faster and in greater numbers than ever before. Three important consequences of global transport network expansion are infectious disease pandemics, vector invasion events and vector-borne pathogen importation. This review briefly examines some of the important historical examples of these disease and vector movements, such as the global influenza pandemics, the devastating Anopheles gambiae invasion of Brazil and the recent increases in imported Plasmodium falciparum malaria cases. We then outline potential approaches for future studies of disease movement, focussing on vector invasion and vector-borne disease importation. Such approaches allow us to explore the potential implications of international air travel, shipping routes and other methods of transport on global pathogen and vector traffic.
Hackers frequently use social engineering attacks to gain a foothold into a target network. This type of attack is a tremendous challenge to defend against, as the weakness lies in the human users, not in the technology. Thus far, methods for dealing with this threat have included establishing better security policies and educating users on the threat that exists. Existing techniques aren't working as evidenced by the fact that auditing agencies consider it a given that will be able to gain access via social engineering. The purpose of this research is to propose a better method of reducing an individual's vulnerability to social engineering attacks.
Conference Paper
Trusted people can fail to be trustworthy when it comes to protecting their aperture of access to secure computer systems due to inadequate education, negligence, and various social pressures. People are often the weakest link in an otherwise secure computer system and, consequently, are targeted for social engineering attacks. Social Engineering is a technique used by hackers or other attackers to gain access to information technology systems by getting the needed information (for example, a username and password) from a person rather than breaking into the system through electronic or algorithmic hacking methods. Such attacks can occur on both a physical and psychological level. The physical setting for these attacks occurs where a victim feels secure: often the workplace, the phone, the trash, and even on-line. Psychology is often used to create a rushed or officious ambiance that helps the social engineer to cajole information about accessing the system from an employee. Data privacy legislation in the United States and international countries that imposes privacy standards and fines for negligent or willful non-compliance increases the urgency to measure the trustworthiness of people and systems. One metric for determining compliance is to simulate, by audit, a social engineering attack upon an organization required to follow data privacy standards. Such an organization commits to protect the confidentiality of personal data with which it is entrusted. This paper presents the results of an approved social engineering audit made without notice within an organization where data security is a concern. Areas emphasized include experiences between the Social Engineer and the audited users, techniques used by the Social Engineer, and other findings from the audit. Possible steps to mitigate exposure to the dangers of Social Engineering through improved user education are reviewed.
COVID-19: Why it matters that scientists continue their search for source of 'patient zero's' infection Accessed
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