Google says state-backed hackers deploying Covid-19 phishing attacks

Google says state-backed hackers deploying Covid-19 phishing attacks
Photo Credit: Reuters
23 Apr, 2020

Google on Wednesday said it has found bad actors using Covid-19 related themes as a cover for phishing attacks.

The search engine giant said that it identified over a dozen government-backed attacker groups that are using Covid-19 themes as a lure for phishing and malware attempts—trying to get their targets to click malicious links and download files.

"Our security systems have detected examples ranging from fake solicitations for charities and NGOs (non-government organisation) to messages that try to mimic employer communications to employees working from home, to websites posing as official government pages and public health agencies,” Shane Huntley of Google's Threat Analysis Group (TAG) said in a blog post.

The Mountain View, California headquartered technology giant's TAG unit works to counter targeted and government-backed hacking against Google and its users.

The group found a specific Covid-19 theme campaign is targeting international health organisations and its officials. The attacks spoofed the World Health Organization’s login pages in an effort to steal its targets' credentials, Huntley said.

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In one phishing attack, hackers attempted to target personal accounts of US government employees with phishing lures using American fast food franchises offering free meals and coupons in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and other emails disguised as online ordering and delivery options.

Google recently detected 18 million malware and phishing Gmail messages per day related to Covid-19. It also found over 240 million coronavirus-related daily spam messages.

However, the company confirmed it has not witnessed any user having their account compromised by this campaign.

"Our machine learning models have evolved to understand and filter these threats, and we continue to block more than 99.9 percent of spam, phishing and malware from reaching our users," Huntley said in the blog.

Last year in November, Google sent out warnings to 12,000 users across 149 countries between July and September, 2019 that they were targeted by government-backed attackers.

Recently, the search engine giant rolled out features and resources to help streamline work amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.