COVID-19 has significantly accelerated Malaysia’s pace towards digitalisation. Whether it be for work, school, shopping or entertainment, it is undisputed that our dependency on virtual spaces has risen in concurrence with stay-at-home measures— all for the purpose of keeping our friends, family and loved ones safe.
Unfortunately, some ill-intentioned individuals have decided to exploit this circumstance for their own benefit.
Heightened anxieties and increased internet reliance have aggravated the darker elements of the virtual world. Unbeknownst to many, the pandemic has created the perfect storm that sets the stage for the unseen threat of COVID-19: cybercrime.
Fraudsters and scammers lurk behind suspicious links sent through emails and text messages, eager to take advantage of individuals working from home. Devoid of their firm’s IT experts, security channels and the safety of a corporate networking system, work-from-home (WFH) individuals are more susceptible to data theft and online scams.
The increasing need to resort to online banking has also opened more room for identity and money theft. To make matters worse, some cybercriminals have decided to capitalize on people’s fears by integrating COVID-19 keywords into their phishing or malware delivery tools. Consequently, more and more people fall prey to misinformation, fraudulent transactions and even fake COVID-19 donations.
Their sophisticated social engineering tactics have become more and more creative over the years, allowing them to trick victims by sending them emails that appear to be from trusted organisations, colleagues and even bank authorities and the police.
On May 14th for example, a retiree lost RM102,000 after being duped by someone who claimed to be working for Bank Negara Malaysia. On June 2nd, a former civil servant from the Health Department lost RM60,000 of his pension payout to a scammer who accused him of hoarding Covid-19 vaccines.
It is clear to us that cybercriminals are piggybacking on the current pandemic situation and using social-engineering tactics like phishing to victimise vulnerable individuals. – Yeo Siang Tong, General Manager of Kaspersky
Criminals are coming out at full force at this time of great fear and anxiety amongst Malaysians. It is now more important than ever that we equip ourselves with the necessary knowledge to protect ourselves from falling victim to these corrupt practices.
Protecting Ourselves From Cybercrime
#1: Adhere to General Online Safety Guidelines
- Never give out personal data over the phone or via email unless you are completely sure the line or email is secure.
- Do not open an attachment from a sender you do not know.
- Do not click or download any links in spam emails or other messages from unidentified sources.
- Ensure that your antivirus software and operating system are up to date to protect your devices from the latest security threats.
- Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (e.g. phone and email verifications).
#2: Avoiding COVID-19 Scams
- Always verify information from emails, text messages and social media posts about COVID-19.
- Do not click on suspicious links provided to you on COVID-19, verify with the sender or agencies that can help.
- Use legitimate, government websites for up-to-date, fact-based information.
- Before making online donations, check the authenticity of the organisations involved by calling the company using the number on their official website.
#3: Don’t be a victim!
- Don’t panic when you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the authorities.
- Police will never call and threaten to arrest anyone so be wary of calls claiming they will.
- Do not blindly follow the scammer’s instructions and disclose personal or banking details.
- When in doubt, check with the organisation the scammer claims to represent by dialling their official numbers. Do not redial or call back any number that was given during the call.
- To report cybersecurity incidents, contact Cyber999 through its emergency hotline at 1300 882 999 (9.00 am to 9.00 pm) or its mobile number 019-266 5850 (24-hour helpline).
Explore Our Sources:
- Tariq, Q. (2021). Saifuddin: More Cybercrime Reported During The Pandemic. The Star. Link.
- Shanmugam, M. (2021). Alternative Views: Cybercrime on the rise amid the pandemic. The Edge. Link.
- RSN Murali. (2021). Health Dept retiree scammed of RM60,000 after being accused of hoarding vaccines. The Star. Link.
- Yunus, R. (2021). Online frauds rise during Covid-19 pandemic. The Malaysian Reserve. Link.