Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

Phishing scams on the up thanks to WFH pandemic

Whether you’re lockdown or not, there’s a good chance you’re seeing more scams lately, as criminals ramp up activity across phishing emails.

You don’t have to look very far to find a bunch of scams waiting for you in your inbox or phone, because they’re out there and itching for you to click. Messages pretending to be from Australia Post, scam emails from Uber, fake surveys from Woolies hinting at prizes that don’t exist, and don’t even get us started on the number of scams that seem like they’re from the government.

If it seems as though the stories on scams have been up ever since COVID hit and we were all locked down, it’s because that’s more or less what has happened, and the numbers are up.

Phishing scams where criminals attempt to trick you using a similar looking presence over email or through a website have increased, and you can probably find them in your inbox right now. Any time someone pretends to be a major company or official government presence, that’s a phishing scam, because they’ve got fishing for your details with something obviously fraudulent.

Unfortunately, the pandemic might have made that worse, thanks in part to how often we’re all at home.

“During the pandemic, cyber criminals found phishing to be an extremely effective and easy way to trick the global population as they were seeking information and advice about lockdown measures, vaccination efforts and travel restrictions,” said Grayson Millbourne, Director of Security Intelligence at Webroot.

“With more people connecting to the internet outside of corporate networks and away from the watchful eyes of IT teams, cybercriminals have taken advantage of this shift.”

Part of the problem is that home and business have become connected, and your work computer is now very likely part of your home life, and may not be managed by an IT department like it was before. Working from home has made that very much a real thing, and because of this, answering emails on your work computer might be a little more fraught with risk.

Remember that it’s easy to fall for a scam, and it can happen anywhere, be it on your phone when you glance quickly at email, or on your computer with a bigger browser. You need to keep your wits about you, because scammers will try to ensnare those details anyway they can.

They’re worth something to them, and the answer is money.

That means our education may need to be boosted a little, and not just because they’re coming in larger numbers, but because criminals have moved beyond the days of terribly obvious mistakes in the English language, and are targeting companies you’re more likely to believe an email from.

“Cyber criminals choose sites that you likely know or interact with, for example Pfizer, a healthcare provider,” said Millbourne to Pickr.

“Their email, IM, etc. will ask you to ‘verify’ your information by clicking on the displayed (phishing) link or providing information through a linked form. These types of phishing scams often include a warning of what will happen if you fail to act soon because criminals know that if they can get you to act before you think, you’re more likely to fall for their phishing attempt.”

It means we all need to be more vigilant, and not just take things on face value. Security software can do some of that lifting, alerting us when we shouldn’t be clicking, but education is also part of the package, paying close attention to what you touch and click, and making sure you don’t just blindly follow every link.

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