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Omicron threat to businesses

Businesses could be seriously threatened by a massive omicron-led spike in COVID test-related phishing attacks, according to Barracuda Networks.

Omicron threat to businesses
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Between October 2021 and January 2022, Barracuda researchers witnessed attacks increasing by 521 per cent, with daily average peaking in early January, coinciding with a worldwide increase in demand for COVID tests because of the rapid spread of the omicron variant.

“Back in March 2020 COVID-19-related phishing attacks jumped 667 per cent, and then as vaccination programs rolled out so did the new wave vaccine-related email threats,” said Olesia Klevchuk, principal product marketing manager for Barracuda Networks.

“The latest omicron variant led to another spike in COVID-19 cases – as well as phishing attacks. As demand for COVID-19 tests increased in recent weeks, the number of scams exploiting the scarcity of tests also went up.”

Ms Klevchuk said the surge in COVID test-related phishing attacks is the latest strategy that cyber criminals have employed throughout the course of the pandemic.

“This recent analysis shows that cybercriminals are using a variety of tactics to get the attention of their victims by taking advantage of their desperation and anxiety,” she said.

“They include sending fake notifications of unpaid orders for COVID-19 tests, where the cybercriminal will provide a PayPal account to send payments to complete purchase of rapid tests, and impersonating lab personnel or testing providers, sharing fake COVID-19 test results.”

Mark Lukie, systems engineer manager with Barracuda, Asia-Pacific said capitalising on the chaos of the pandemic is not a new trend in the world of cyber crime.

“Just like the threat of COVID-19, pandemic-themed scams are not going to disappear overnight, but fortunately there are a number of tactics that businesses and consumers can employ to ensure they remain protected,” he said.

“For a start, businesses can leverage sophisticated email security which utilises artificial intelligence to detect and block email attack tactics that are designed to bypass basic gateways and spam filters. Providing employees with up-to-date user awareness training about COVID-related phishing, seasonal scams, and other potential threats is also a vital cybercrime prevention method which should be adopted.”

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