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Good News – New Coronavirus related scam reporting service rolled-out by NCSC – also some new advice for maintaining secure video conferencing

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This ‘Scam Reporting Service’ has now been introduced in order to highlight suspicious emails for the NCSC to assess, & then to take down malicious content. Also, a new Cyber Awareness campaign has started, which includes some advice on securing safe video conferencing.

The aim of the ‘Suspicious Email Reporting Service’ is to make it straightforward for users to forward suspicious emails to the NCSC – which very much include those claiming to offer services related to Coronavirus. Co-development has been with the City of London Police

Automatic

After doubtful emails are forwarded – which of course include those offering ‘support’ related to COVID-19 – to report@phishing.gov.uk, the NCSC’s automatic system will immediately test the validity of the site concerned.

Any sites that are then found to be ‘phishing’ scams will be removed immediately.

Also, there will be support for police forces. This will be by providing a live-time analysis of reports & in addition going on to identify the new patterns in online trickery & helping them to stop even more of the offenders.

Disclosure

A new disclosure is extremely interesting. Over the past month, the NCSC has removed 2,000 scams – including 471 fake online shops –  which were trying to trick those people who are looking for Coronavirus-related services.

Also closed have been 555 malware distribution sites set up to cause damage to any visitors & stopped 200 phishing sites looking for personal information e.g. passwords or credit card info & closed-down 832 ‘advance-fee frauds.

This describes where a large amount of money is promised in return for a ‘set-up payment’. The ‘infamous’ e-mails claiming millions of dollars from a deceased persons offshore account will be paid after just a few thousand dollars are sent by the target is a common example of this scams.

Campaign

NCSC newly launched  ‘Cyber Aware’ campaign also will now be delivered working with the Home Office, the Cabinet Office & the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Its function is to help individuals & organisations to adequately protect themselves online with good & functional advice on how protect passwords, accounts & devices.

Video Conferencing services

The secure use of video conferencing services adds to the advice published on www.ncsc.gov.uk since the Coronavirus outbreak started. This now includes discussion on setting up accounts & in securely installing the app, creating a strong password, arranging a chat, tracking who is joining the chat & also in protecting devices.

NCSC also strongly suggests that users do not ever make their meetings public, connect only to users through their contacts\address book & to never, ever post their link or password publicly.

CEO

NCSC CEO Ciaran Martin recently issued a public statement that stated “Technology is helping us cope with the Coronavirus crisis & will play a role helping us out of it – but that means cyber-security is more important than ever.

“With greater use of technology, there are different ways attackers can harm all of us. But everyone can help to stop them by following the guidance campaign we have launched today. But even with the best security in place, it must be accepted that some attacks will still get through.

“That is why we have created a new national reporting service for suspicious emails – and if they link to malicious content, it will be taken down or blocked. By forwarding messages to us, you will be protecting the UK from email scams and cyber-crime.”

James Brokenshire

Minister for Security James Brokenshire also put on the record: “Criminals are seeking to exploit our greater use of emails, video conferencing & other technologies for their advantage. It is despicable that they are using the coronavirus outbreak as cover to try to scam & steal from people in their homes. We all have a part to play in seeing that they do not succeed.

“I encourage everyone to follow the Cyber Aware advice and to use the Suspicious Email Reporting Service. They provide important new ways in which we can protect ourselves as well as our families and businesses.”

Digital Infrastructure Minister

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman has also stated: “Technology is helping us work remotely, connect with family & friends & access medical advice online, so we can stay home, protect the NHS and save lives. But cyber criminals are also exploiting this crisis to target people and organisations.

“I urge everyone to remain vigilant online, follow the National Cyber Security Centre’s guidance on passwords and account security, and report suspected Coronavirus related scams if you see them.”

Advice

The advice issued for staying secure online is as follows:-

  1. Turn on two-factor authentication for important accounts
  2. Protect important accounts using a password of three random words
  3. Create a separate password that you only use for your main email account
  4. Update the software & apps on your devices regularly (ideally set to ‘automatically update’)
  5. Save your passwords in your browser
  6. To protect yourself from being held to ransom, back up important data

City of London Police

Karen Baxter, City of London Police, National Lead for Fraud, added: “As we all stay indoors and spend more time online there is more opportunity for criminals to try & trick people into parting with their money.

“Law enforcement are working closely with government to ensure the public, and businesses, are as well-equipped as possible to fight online harms.

“This process will be greatly assisted by the new suspicious email reporting service which empowers the public and enhances police capabilities to step up their response to fraud.

“Officers have already executed a number of warrants across the country to target and disrupt criminals sending emails and texts designed to steal your money.”

Further comments have come from a number of industry figures

CyberArk

Rich Turner, SVP EMEA at CyberArk : “These developments highlight the lengths hackers will go to when trying to circumvent cyber-defences, but phishing attacks in themselves are nothing new. According to our research, 60 percent  of organisations cite external attacks, such as phishing, as one of the greatest security risks currently facing their organisation, ahead of other popular techniques such as ransomware.

Cyber-attackers

“That is because cyber-attackers continue to seek the path of least resistance, & for many organisations, this remains their employees. Well-crafted phishing emails – especially those that play on the fears of individuals – can often do the trick. Attackers typically use these tactics to gain a foothold within organisations that then allow them access to privileged credentials – those that give control over sensitive data or critical systems.”

ESET

Jake Moore, who is Cybersecurity Specialist at ESET added his support – “This is a great way to help support the government reduce the number of rogue websites and phishing emails. Whilst it takes time for professionals to check such illicit sites, it can help when the public assist the authorities in spotting fraud. Phishing emails have increased recently, & criminals are clearly abusing the pandemic for their own gain.

Therefore, we need to work together in supporting each other & helping take down such sites and emails collectively.

Challenge

“The NCSC have a difficult challenge on their hands as many people struggle to adopt their advice.

Many, for example, are aware of two factor authentication and how it can vastly reduce the chance of being hacked. However, very few acts upon this advice and set it up on all of their accounts. Password managers are another lifesaver which will also help thwart the hackers’ methods of entering your accounts.”

Exabeam

Sam Humphries, Security Strategist at Exabeam has added “Attackers using newsworthy events to lure users into clicking malicious links is nothing new, however, in this current climate stress & distractions are putting users at an increased risk of accidentally dropping their guard.

Machine Learning

Using statistical modelling to identify patterns & protect people from this risk clearly demonstrates the benefit of machine learning in promptly detecting and blocking attacker behaviours.

“This is an approach many organisations can learn from. Using machine learning & analytics to draw insight from vast amounts of data is the most effective way of identifying security risks. These tools set baselines of normal behaviour that help to identify threats much easier & faster – detecting & escalating unusual patterns, pinpointing event time-lines and providing deeper insight on sources.”

Digital Guardian

Tim Bandos, VP Cyber Security at Digital Guardian observed “We are definitely seeing a huge rise with phishing attacks in a COVID-19 theme being the primary aggressor,” he cautioned. “I wouldn’t necessarily say the total number of cyber-attacks has gone up. I do think the method by which they are carrying out these attacks is that they are leveraging this opportunity.

Lucrative

“Because these highly lucrative attacks are succeeding, they will continue to attract more groups willing to attempt their methods. It’s time that businesses consider applying security to their business practices because IT security tools are not infallible against human behaviour.”

 

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