COVID-19 Advice Series: Key cyber threats to watch out for

by Abdullah Bin Zubair

Cyber criminals are capitalising on the current global health crisis that we are currently facing. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSE) reported that it took down over 2,000 online Coronavirus scams in March alone, including 471 fake online shops. Google similarly publicised that they are identifying and blocking 18 million hoax emails per day.

With 1.5 billion people using Gmail, thousands working from home, and an unprecedented proportion of the population using the internet every day in lockdown, this rise in cybercrime is a massive concern. So how can people protect themselves? Well an essential first step is knowing what kind of attacks to look out for and how to avoid them.

At RiverSafe, we want to prevent as many people as possible from falling victim to cyber-attacks by providing simple and clear information. That’s why we’ve outlined two of the most common cyber-attacks you need to be aware of:


Phishing is when criminals use scam emails to try and trick a user into either clicking on malicious links or providing sensitive information.

Often, they will impersonate well-known authorities to gain your trust. Look out for emails claiming to be from organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention attempting to persuade you into donating to fake causes.

Whilst Google has been able to block 99% of scams emails reaching its users, there has been a 667% increase in the amount of phishing emails being sent out, according to Barracuda Networks.

If in doubt, do not respond to any unknown email addresses or click unknown links – instead just delete the email.

“Given the current coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, cyber criminals are sending emails that claim to have a ‘cure’ for the virus, offer a financial reward, or encourage you to donate.”

National Cyber Security Centre

RELATED: The online scams hackers are using to exploit coronavirus scams (explained)


Ransomware attacks are a specific form of malware where cyber criminals threaten to publish the victim’s data, unless a ransom is paid.

The Beazley Breach Response Services reported that Ransomware cyber-attacks have exploded by 25% in the first quarter of 2020.

Worryingly, financial institutions and healthcare institutions have been the most affected by these particular cyber-attacks. However, all sectors are at risk. For example, on 9th June, Breaking News reported that Honda’s global factories were brought to a standstill as Ekans malware, a malware that targets industrial control systems, had infected one of the company’s servers.

“Cyber criminals are preying on people’s heightened anxiety during this pandemic, tricking them into clicking and sharing links that steal information.”

– Katherine Keefe, Head of Beazley Breach Response Services

For specific advice on how to ensure that your company is protected from these attacks, please contact us.

By Abdullah Bin Zubair