Preying on public fears, the ongoing coronavirus outbreak is proving to be a goldmine of opportunity for cybercriminals. Email scams, phishing, fake apps and malware attacks tied to the pandemic all seem to be on the rise. Recent research from Bitdefender, however, indicates that third-party Android app developers have begun taking advantage by using coronavirus-related keywords in their app names or descriptions.
By analyzing Android telemetry data, Bitdefender found a spike in applications containing the words «covid» and «corona» in the package name or file path. In total, Bitdefender identified 579 applications that contained corona-related keywords. Many of these had nothing to do with the coronavirus at all, while others contained adware or were bundled with malware or information stealers under the guise of live tracker applications.
Exploiting coronavirus fear
By examining coronavirus apps on third-party marketplaces, Bitdefender found that many of them were malicious and exploiting peoples fears of the virus to install adware and malware. Examples include apps imitating coronavirus information sites to spread banking trojans, and spyware disguised as coronavirus diagnosis applications. A wide range of threats have leveraged on the coronavirus in recent weeks:
Email scams and phishing tied to the pandemic have steadily increased. At least 42,578 «corona» or «covid» domain names have been registered since the start of March
- Ginp banking Trojan uses information about people infected with coronavirus as bait to lure Android users into giving away credit card data
- There has been a rise in fake apps that purport to sell coronavirus cures or face masks, or urge users to make donations for fake charities
- A recently discovered hack targeted small-office routers to redirect users to malicious sites that pose as COVID-19 informational resources in an attempt to install Oski malware that steals passwords and cryptocurrency credentials
- Attackers have been found abusing the names of many organizations in extortion and phishing campaigns, including the World Health Organization (WHO)
The findings by Bitdefender is the latest in a long list of threats piggybacking on the coronavirus pandemic.
How to protect yourself
End-users need to be extra careful when installing new applications during this difficult time, and we recommend that you install only official apps from official marketplaces, and seek information only from official sources. For the app providers, it’s crucial to make sure you have a mobile app security solution that can keep your apps safe from malware and other mobile threats.