You open your laptop and see an email from a healthcare organization that you don’t recognize. The subject line reads “URGENT – PROOF OF VACCINATION NEEDED.” Impulsively, you open the email and click on the link. You’re redirected to a website that asks you to enter your name, date of birth, Social Security Number, and a photo of your vaccine card. Scrambling, you enter the information and click “Submit.”
As you continue to adapt your lifestyle to the ongoing public health precautions, it’s important to consider how these precautions can affect your digital health as well. According to the Washington Post, pandemic-related email scams are on the rise, especially with the delta variant surging. McAfee Labs’ April 2021 Threats Report found that COVID-19-themed cyber-attack detections increased 114% in Q3 and Q4 of 2020. Research also shows that COVID-19 phishing attempts in June 2021 increased 33%. With confusion around proof of vaccination and booster shots emerging, it’s likely that cybercriminals will take advantage.
Phishing Scams Asking for Proof of Vaccination
As employers re-evaluate their return-to-office plans, some are requiring proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test results. This creates a new opportunity for cybercriminals to exploit. Researchers have uncovered phishing emails disguised as human resources departments asking recipients to submit personally identifiable information about their vaccination status. Many of these types of emails contain links to fake login pages. If the recipient proceeds with entering their credentials and personal data, cybercriminals can use the consumer’s data to conduct credential stuffing attacks and hack their online profiles. This could lead to credit card fraud, data extraction, wire transfers, identity theft, and more.
Phishing Scams Posing as Healthcare Organizations
With various organizations contacting individuals about potential virus exposure, testing and vaccination information, and other public health news, it’s important to remember that some of these organizations may not be what they say they are. That email from the healthcare company you’ve never heard of? It’s probably a cybercriminal in disguise. Some hackers are impersonating public health and government organizations, sending phishing emails in the hopes of collecting users’ names, Social Security Numbers, birthdates, and other valuable data. Criminals tend to sell this information on the dark web, making a profit while the recipients’ online safety is put in jeopardy.
Guard Yourself Against Phishing
As more news and recommendations for dealing with the pandemic continues to emerge, it’s important that you stay vigilant when it comes to protecting your digital wellness. After all, it’s just as important as your physical wellness! In addition to staying updated on the latest COVID-19-related scams, follow these tips to keep yourself secure from online threats like phishing scams:
1. Verify the sender
If you receive an email or text message from an organization that you’re unfamiliar with, do some sleuthing. Verify that the organization is legitimate. The same goes if you receive a message from an entity that you recognize. If your “HR department” or a “doctor’s office” contacts you and asks for personal information, reach out to them directly instead of replying directly or clicking on any links in the message. This can prevent you from interacting with a hacker in disguise.
2. Look for misspellings or grammatical errors
Oftentimes, hackers will use a URL for their spoofed website that is just one character off from the legitimate site. Before clicking on any website from an email asking you to act, hover over the link with your cursor. This will allow you to preview the URL and identify any suspicious misspellings or grammatical errors before navigating to a potentially dangerous website.
3. Enable multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication requires that users confirm a collection of things to verify their identity—usually something they have, and a factor unique to their physical being—such as a retina or fingerprint scan. This can prevent a cybercriminal from using credential-stuffing tactics (where they will use email and password combinations to hack into online profiles) to access your network or account if your login details were ever exposed during a data breach and sold on the dark web.
4. Sign up for an identity theft alert service
An identity theft alert service warns you about suspicious activity surrounding your personal information, allowing you to jump to action before irreparable damage is done. McAfee Total Protection not only keeps your devices safe from viruses but gives you the added peace of mind that your identity is secure, as well.