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Computer users are being urged to practice cyber hygiene as well as hand hygiene during the COVID-19 crisis, as online scammers strike.

The warning comes from CQUniversity Information Systems and Analysis Leader, Dr Ritesh Chugh, who says everyone must stay on guard as these threats are global.

Dr Chugh has reflected on the various coronavirus-related scams and what the public should do to stay safe online.

“The unsuspecting public needs to watch out for the numerous COVID-19-related scams currently circulating,” he said.

Cyber hygiene warning to fight COVID-19 scammers

Watch our for:

Email phishing
- “These scams are usually spread through email, text messages and social media to extract personal and financial information such as usernames, passwords and addresses. In some cases, links and attachments are also transmitted, which could install malicious software on user computers.”

Emails offering coronavirus-related advice (with attachments) appearing to be from legitimate organisations. Opening the attachments could download malicious software to your computer. Sometimes, there will be links rather than attachments, which take users to a spoofing site to capture personal information

Ransomware attack – Spam emails can also contain links or attachments that install ransomware on your computer. Ransomware encrypts files or locks computers, with the perpetrator then asking for a ransom to decrypt the files, or unlock infected machines.

Spoofing sites – These are lookalike fraudulent websites with similar content and URLs to legitimate sites, with the intention to capture login information or download malware. The malware could be a keystroke logger that transmits every keystroke back to the fraudster. These websites may offer fake treatments or cures for coronavirus.

Impersonations – These are scammers posing as health agencies and asking for credit card details for medical prescriptions under false pretences.

Text scams – There are Coronavirus-related text messages that appear to be from government-related agencies spreading disinformation and harvesting users’ personal and financial information.

Social media advertisements – There are fraudulent COVID-19 home test kits being peddled on social media.

Faux fundraising – Scammers are creating fake charities or impersonating real ones to capitalise on the goodwill of people during this pandemic.