Interpol has produced a new report on Covid-19 related cyber crime which indicates that over sixty percent of EU member countries had witnessed a massive increase in malicious domains registered with the keywords’ COVID or ‘Corona.’  These sites are aiming to take advantage of the growing number of people searching for information about COVID-19 online

During COVID-19, cyber criminals have exploited the Internet in the disguise of providing help and information.  In the fight against these challenging problems, both Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have a role to play and can help to solve a wide range of cyber security problems in different industries. 

AI is extremely good at attempting to mimic human intelligence. While it is still far beyond replacing humans’ cognitive thinking, it is proficient at finding anomalies and irregularities and reducing errors and faults in the operational tasks. ML can analyse the data from the past and evaluate the use cases for the future and these processes that can help identify possible cyber-crimes and take proactive preventive measures.

  • AI establishes a baseline of behavior and it can flag it and take action, whether that’s sending a notification to a technician or even reverting to a safe state after a ransomware attack.
  • ML algorithms can also help detect and remove outliers from training data sets to address the data poisoning attacks. AI-based risk management systems can be used to identify changes in those methods and to determine password patterns of explicit customer behavior.

Unfortunately, there is a high probability that criminal attackers can weaponise AI and ML tools and automate them  to boost the effectiveness of their attacks.

There are many ways AI and ML can be leveraged to fight cybersecurity issues. However, it is always better to define what kind of threats one wants to address using these technologies.

The key findings by the Interpol concerning the cyber-crime landscape in relation to the Covid-19 crisis include:- 

Online Scams and Phishing – Threat actors have revised their usual online scams and phishing schemes. By deploying COVID-19 themed phishing emails, often impersonating government and health authorities, cyber criminals entice victims into providing their personal data and downloading malicious content.

Around two-thirds of member countries which responded to the global cyber crime survey reported a significant use of COVID-19 themes for phishing and online fraud since the outbreak.

Disruptive Malware (Ransomware and DDoS) – Cyber criminals are increasingly using disruptive malware against critical infrastructure and healthcare institutions, due to the potential for high impact and financial benefit.

In the first two weeks of April 2020, there was a spike in ransomware attacks by multiple threat groups which had been relatively dormant for the past few months.

Law enforcement investigations show the majority of attackers estimated quite accurately the maximum amount of ransom they could demand from targeted organisations.

Data Harvesting Malware – The deployment of data harvesting malware such as Remote Access Trojan, info stealers, spyware and banking Trojans by cyber criminals is on the rise. Using Covid-19 related information as a lure, threat actors infiltrate systems to compromise networks, steal data, divert money and build botnets.

Malicious Domains – Taking advantage of the increased demand for medical supplies and information on Covid-19, there has been a significant increase of cyber criminals registering domain names containing keywords, such as “coronavirus” or “Covid”.

These fraudulent websites underpin a wide variety of malicious activities including C2 servers, malware deployment and phishing. From February to March 2020, a 569 per cent growth in malicious registrations, including malware and phishing and a 788 per cent growth in high-risk registrations were detected and reported to Interpol by a private sector partner.

Misinformation – An increasing amount of misinformation and fake news is spreading rapidly among the public. Unverified information, inadequately understood threats, and conspiracy theories have contributed to anxiety in communities and in some cases facilitated the execution of cyber-attacks.

Nearly 30 per cent of countries which responded to the global cyber crime survey confirmed the circulation of false information related to Covid-19. Within a one-month period, one country reported 290 postings with the majority containing concealed malware. There are also reports of mis-information being linked to the illegal trade of fraudulent medical commodities.

Other cases of misinformation involved scams via mobile text-messages containing ‘too good to be true’ offers such as free food, special benefits, or large discounts in supermarkets.

Source:  Cyber Security Intelligence