Journalists take part in Fact Check Training in Palu, Central Sulawesi, last year. (Antara Photo/Basri Marzuki)

Hackers Get Creative During Pandemic, Google Says


APRIL 23, 2020

Jakarta. Google reveals they find on average 18 million malware or phishing attempts and more than 240 million coronavirus-related spam messages every day during the coronavirus crisis.

The most common scams have been people pretending to be representing health organizations or the government, people selling fake health products, financial fraudsters posing as investors or debt collectors and fake donation requests for Covid-19 cases.

"We're seeing more sophisticated attacks. The biggest category is impersonation – phishing or malware that pretends to be someone from a healthcare agency or the government," Mark Risher, Google's senior director for account security, said in an online interview on Thursday.

He said that during the pandemic, hackers are putting more effort into scamming people. The attackers would alter the messages depending on the target.

"What we see is targeted messages going after high-value targets, a politician or chief executive of a large company, or someone working in the healthcare sector. They've done their research, they don't send generic messages," Risher said.

"So if the target is somebody young, the attackers would employ young-sounding language and themes [in the messages]. If it's someone older, they might talk about retirement or other things that might concern the elderly," Risher said.

Phishing could lead to data losses or having malware installed unknowingly on your computer.

Google is trying to keep users safe by having built-in automatic protections. They also use TensorFlow machine-learning to scan for phishing and malware.

"We look at the techniques that [the hackers] are using to get through, and we want to build a robust defense. Once an attack is successful, it spreads around the world – other countries, armies, criminal groups will copy it," he said.

"[TensorFlow] examines the phishing messages, spam messages and scams and the system automatically learns the pattern variations to differentiate one from the other," he said.

Risher advised avoiding these internet threats by using company email accounts for all work errands and activities.

Also, people should use only secure video conference apps, keep their computer's security software updated and use a password manager to avoid using the same password for every website.

"It's very tempting to use the same password, but the problem is the apps get compromised, and everything becomes vulnerable. It's like if every house in the neighborhood has the same key to unlock the door, then if anybody loses that key, the whole neighborhood is vulnerable," he said.