FBI and Interpol Report and Advice on Covid 19 Cybercrime Rise

FBI and Interpol Report and Advice on Covid 19 Cybercrime Rise

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By citiesabc resources
The cost of Cybercrime, infographic by Dinis Guarda for citiesabc.com

FBI and Interpol Report and Advice on Covid 19 Cybercrime Rise

As The World Goes To War With Coronavirus - Cyber Criminals Are Waging War Against this Fight. Some of the biggest world intelligent organisations FBI and Interpol are alerting us towards the need to look at cybersecurity and especially how Covid 19 is increasing the risks for organisations, healthcare and hospitals.

Cybercrime is one of the biggest challenges to the world economy.  Interpol and the FBI have alerted us to the increasing issues and risks coming out of these activities. Cybercrime direct global costs will exceed $6 Trillion in 2021 according to recent research. This is a big chunk of the world economy. This amount will get bigger and bigger as the world organisations become more digital and as we build and become more dependent on digital  platforms.

Research from the company Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that cybercrime damages will cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021, up from $3 trillion in 2015. Cyberattacks are the fastest growing crime in the U.S. and other economies around the world, and they are increasing in size, sophistication and cost. Moreover, they are not discovered until its too late and few organisations understand the consequences and multiple damages this can bring to them and their teams as we become more data driven and digital.

Some of the biggest forms of cybercrime at the moment are:

  1. Malware
  2. Span and email junk
  3. Web Based Attack
  4. Denial of service
  5. Malicious insider
  6. Phishing
  7. Malicious Code
  8. Stolen Devices
  9. Ransomware
  10. Botnets
  11. Identity theft

From these multiple sources of cybercrime Malware and web-based attacks continue to be the most dangerous and expensive for companies and organisations. The cost of Ransomware (21%) and Malicious insider (15%) attack types have grown and in general, all of these forms of crime are becoming bigger.

Some of the major issues with cybercrime during Covi-19 Pandemic are highlighted with:

Malicious domains

There are a considerable number of registered domains on the Internet that contain the terms: "coronavirus", "corona-virus", "covid19" and "covid-19" and they are doing this to infect computers and devices by leaving viruses .

While some domains, websites, apps are legitimate, in many cases cybercriminals are creating thousands of new sites every day to carry out spam campaigns, phishing or to spread malware and damaging organisations and businesses all over the world.


Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated and taking advantage of the widespread global communications on the issues of covid-19 / coronavirus to mask their activities. Some of these forms of malware, spyware and Trojans cyber crime have been found embedded in interactive content such as coronavirus / covid-19 maps and websites. Other forms include communications such as spam emails that are also tricking users into clicking on links which download malware to their computers or mobile devices.


A particular dangerous form of cybercrime is the targeting of hospitals, medical centres and public institutions. These healthcare organisations are being targeted by cybercriminals for ransomware attacks – since these institutions have issues with legacy software and fragile IT systems that are overwhelmed with the health crisis and cannot afford to be locked out of their systems. In this sensitive situation, the criminals attack their systems as they believe they are likely to pay the ransom.

The ransomware is a very powerful way of creating disruption and damage and can enter their systems through emails containing infected links or attachments, compromised employee credentials, or by exploiting a vulnerability in the system.

Cybercrime/COVID-19-cyberthreats cyber safety checklist, source Interpol

As research, healthcare teams all over the world and private companies try to maintain their work and rush to find a vaccine, cybersecurity pros at the leading cyber protection agency Acronis have done research that states that increased cyber threats may put their hard work at risk of being stolen by adversary nations.

The FBI and Interpol have both reported significant spikes in activity from cyber criminals as they increasingly target hospitals, putting our entire healthcare system at risk. Hospital systems busy fighting the virus are understaffed and less focus is being put on protecting these critical systems. For some health security networks, it could be a matter of life or death as vital medical equipment is attached.

Example of big cybersecurity issues are attached to hospitals in Singapore – Hospitals and other institutions on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus facing unprecedented physical dangers are now also facing another threat from cybercriminals.

Cybercrime Ransomware Rising

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) recently described the cybercrime issues as ransomware as a new damaging big business model for cybercrime, and a global raising phenomenon.

Cybercrime form Ransomware is a malware virus that infects computers and restricts their access to files, often threatening permanent data destruction unless a ransom is paid — has reached epidemic proportions and is the fastest growing cybercrime.

As we speak every 40 seconds a business falls victim to a ransomware attack. Cybersecurity Ventures research predicts that this will rise to every 14 seconds.

The FBI estimates that the total amount of these ransom payments approaches $1 billion annually. This is particularly serious as we face Coivid-19 Pandemic and organisations are struggling with increasing digital challenges and work remotely new requirements.

Interpol has issued a warning to organizations at the forefront of the global response to the COVID-19 outbreak that have also become targets of ransomware attacks, which are designed to lock them out of their critical systems in an attempt to extort payments.

The Interpol’s Cybercrime Threat Response division team at its Cyber Fusion Centre has detected a significant increase in cybercrimes such as these as the number of attempted ransomware attacks against key organizations and infrastructure engaged in the virus response. Cybercriminals are using ransomware to hold healthcare organisations and special hospitals and medical services digitally hostage; preventing them from accessing vital files and systems until a ransom is paid.

To support global efforts against this critical danger, and given the alarming issues related, the Interpol has issued a Purple Notice alerting police in all its 194 member countries to the heightened ransomware threat.

The Interpol’s response to ransom and cybercrime

In response to this growing danger, the Cybercrime Threat Response team is monitoring all cyberthreats related to COVID-19, working closely with private partners in the cybersecurity industry to gather information and provide support to organizations targeted by ransomware.

It is also assisting police with investigations into ransomware cases in affected member countries as well as analysis of cybercrime threat data to help law enforcement agencies mitigate the risks.

“As hospitals and medical organizations around the world are working non-stop to preserve the well-being of individuals stricken with the coronavirus, they have become targets for ruthless cybercriminals who are looking to make a profit at the expense of sick patients,” said The Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock.

“Locking hospitals out of their critical systems will not only delay the swift medical response required during these unprecedented times, it could directly lead to deaths. Interpol continues to stand by its member countries and provide any assistance necessary to ensure our vital healthcare systems remain untouched and the criminals targeting them held accountable,” added the The Interpol Chief.

Interpol is also providing first-hand technical support to member countries, as well as mitigation and protection advice to help safeguard their critical medical infrastructure.

Additionally, Interpol is collecting a list of suspicious Internet domains related to COVID-19 and undertaking further analysis and evaluation, and will work with the relevant countries to take action.

Prevention and mitigation are key towards Cybercrime

At this point, the ransomware appears to be spreading primarily via emails – often falsely claiming to contain information or advice regarding the coronavirus from a government agency, which encourages the recipient to click on an infected link or attachment.

In this regard, prevention and mitigation efforts are key to stopping further attacks, particularly for frontline organizations like hospitals which are facing the highest risk.

To minimize the risk of disruption in the event a ransomware attack does occur, Interpol encourages hospitals and healthcare companies to ensure all their hardware and software are regularly kept up to date. They should also implement strong safety measures like backing up all essential files and storing these separately from their main systems.

Educating your teams and Protecting your systems

Healthcare is a particular sensitive area to cybercrime and the most sensitive with the Covid-19. Most of the hospitals have old IT systems and lack modern secure infrastructure. Most of them are also using outdated software that is easy to hack. Both hospitals, clinics and doctors have to look at new ways to use digital transformation tools. World intelligence organisations are giving advice on how to cope with this. There are a number of urgent steps hospitals and others can take to protect their systems from a ransomware attack:

  • Educate the multiple teams within hospitals to be conscious of the risks of cybercrime;
  • Make sure they use not the same password across multiple software or devices;
  • Only open emails or download software/applications from trusted sources;
    Do not click on random links or open attachments in emails which you were not expecting to receive, or come from an unknown sender;
  • Secure email systems to protect from spam which could be infected;
    Backup all important files frequently, and store them independently from your system (e.g. in the cloud, on an external drive);
  • Ensure you have the latest anti-virus software installed on all systems and mobile devices, and that it is constantly running;
  • Use strong, unique passwords for all systems, and update them regularly.

Cybercrime is increasing and its threat will continue and the pandemic will amplify it.

The risks with cybercrime will keep increasing and organisations, cities and governments have to take this seriously. Special education and awareness actions are more important than ever to tackle all the growing risks. Some of the main areas to consider:

  1. Organisations, businesses, healthcare in particular have to take this much more seriously and look at firstly educate their teams and multiple partners and employees;
  2. Make sure that risky legacy systems such as old software are updated on a regular basis and actions are taken by management to start putting this in their priority lists;
  3. The security of health of the world's healthcare infrastructure and data will be the biggest target for cybercrime and they will be the most vulnerable;
    The risk that these cybersecurity hacking threats pose to your health data are going to become augmented;
  4. This will be increasingly a Life and Death issue.
    If data from countries, cities, governments and especially healthcare devices is hacked lives are at risk;
  5. Cyber criminality needs to be taken seriously and more legal efforts and harsch laws need to be put in place to penalise these modern criminals;
  6. It is important to create awareness and actions to make organisations and leaders understand who these cyber criminals are and what they are looking to achieve.


INTERPOL assisting member countries to mitigate and investigate attacks against hospitals

Global cybercrime costs will exceed $6 Trillion In 2021

Cybercrime Damages $6 Trillion by 2021


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