September 3rd, 2020

Increase in Cybercrime During COVID-19 – WST

As the pandemic continues to rage on, we’ve discovered some of the hardest working people during this time are fraudsters and scammers who never seem to be impacted by high unemployment rates. According to a recent FinCEN Advisory ( Advisory Covid Cybercrime 508 FINAL.pdf) cybercriminals and malicious state actors are setting their sights on financial institutions and their customers by enabling more malware and phishing schemes, extortion, business email compromise (BEC) fraud, and exploitation of remote applications.

Targeting and Exploitation of Remote Platforms and Processes
Per the FinCEN Advisory, cybercriminals are targeting vulnerabilities in remote applications and virtual environments to steal sensitive information, compromise financial activity, and disrupt business operations. Two mechanisms currently used by these nefarious actors are digital manipulation of identity documents (drivers’ licenses, passports, state issued IDs, etc.) and leveraging compromised credentials across accounts. While this might not sound like anything new when it comes to criminal activity, because of the significant use of remote access in the pandemic environment instances of these types of fraud have dramatically increased.

Phishing, Malware, and Extortion
These types of campaigns often lure individuals and businesses by referencing COVID-19 themes, such as payments under the CARES Act, availability of health care supplies, or ways to make money during this period of high unemployment. FinCEN indicates that cybercriminals may also distribute malware, including ransomware, through these phishing emails, malicious websites and downloads, domain name system (DNS) hijacking or spoofing attacks, and fraudulent mobile applications.

BEC Schemes
While BEC schemes are not new, cybercriminals are using COVID-19 to target municipalities and the health care industry supply chain. FinCEN has seen a surge in BEC schemes where criminals convince companies to redirect payments to new accounts while claiming the modification is due to pandemic-related changes in business operations.

The previously noted FinCEN Advisory includes a multitude of Red Flags to help identify the above situations. Additionally, it encourages filers of suspicious activity reports (SARs) to include reference to COVID-19 and this guidance in appropriate sections of the SAR. Doing so will help law enforcement to effectively identify and devote resources to COVID-19 related cases.

We’re all struggling enough just to survive all that COVID-19 has thrown at us. Let’s do what we can to help protect legitimate relief efforts!

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