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Protecting Your Cloud from Coronavirus Phishing Scams

Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has become the center of international attention. Almost everyone gets many coronavirus-related emails from their companies, friends, or local communities. The information may cover a great variety of topics: coronavirus prevention measures, change in a local supermarket business hours due to a quarantine, and much more. And it’s absolutely understandable to open such emails. Cybercriminals understand this situation and use it to their advantage. 

Coronavirus-related phishing scams are on the rise. Criminals use global panic as a way to steal sensitive information and spread malicious software. Targeting cloud data is common for criminals, as a successful phishing attack on the cloud will bring them considerable profit. In this article, we’ll take a look at how such scams may look like and how to avoid them.

What Is Phishing?

Phishing is a method of impersonating a trusted person or entity in order to seize digital data. Phishing is among the most widely used tools to commit cybercrimes. Phishing attacks begin when a scammer sends an email and asks for sensitive information like a credit card number or credentials. 

Sometimes, a criminal sends an email with a link, image, or document containing malicious code. A single click will initiate a malware attack on your cloud. Corporately used cloud environments like G Suite and Office 365 are often targeted with phishing attacks, as the business data is valuable. In this Microsoft 365 security guide, you can get more detailed information about threats to the cloud data and ways to protect yourself from them.

Phishing attacks differ in execution, targeting, efficiency, and many other characteristics. What makes them similar is that they are designed to trick you with fake senses of trust and urgency. A phishing attack looks like a legitimate message with a certain call to action. To imbue the level of realism even further, scammers tailor phishing attacks to match a certain situation. And coronavirus suits such purposes as well as possible.

Adjusting Phishing Tactics to The Pandemic

Coronavirus and phishing are closer than you may think. Criminals exploit fears and uncertainty caused by the global coronavirus outbreak. A bit of numbers: the disease has caused phishing to go up 667% in under a month. And not without a reason. People are more likely to respond to a phishing email if it covers an urgent matter. 

To hide phishing attacks among normal emails, cybercriminals use many tricks. For example, they may pretend to be a medic informing you about anti-coronavirus measures. Such fake messages contain a link to corrupted websites that have malware instead of useful information. In some reported cases, criminals pretended to be the World Health Organization’s employees to trick unattentive users. 

Image via mailguard

How To Detect Phishing Emails?

Recognizing a phishing email is vital. Though hackers implement various tactics and social engineering methods to trick a user, sometimes a bit of caution will protect you. There are several red flags that will help you to detect a phishing email. 

  1. Suspicious sender. Make sure the sender has an email address that matches your organization or your partners. Often, hackers use misspelled domain names to forge the identity of someone you trust, so checking the sender’s email address of the sender may help to detect a fake. 
  2. Suspicious link. It is vital to ensure that the link is trustworthy enough to click. Avoid clicking domain shorteners or domains that do not start with https.
  3. Awkward grammar, punctuation, or visuals. Something looks strange? Pay extra attention. Scammers often write phishing emails with misspellings or use images that are out of place.
  4. A clear attempt to install a sense of urgency and motivate a reader to act. For example, seeing words like “now” or “immediately” may be a suspicious sign. After all, hackers try to make a user act without thinking.

However, even a trained and attentive user may be tricked. Phishing attacks, especially spear phishing, may be extremely convincing. That’s why using multiple anti-phishing measures at the same time is better than relying only on people’s attention.

Top Anti-phishing Measures to Protect Your Cloud Data

Though cloud services provide built-in options of phishing protection (for example, spam filters) of the cloud data, it may not be enough. To ensure your information is protected, it’s better to set up several lines of defense. Using several anti-phishing measures at the same time will significantly reduce the chance of being hacked. Here are the most common measures to protect your cloud data from phishing attacks. 

Cloud Data Backup

Sometimes, criminals are successful in catching users off-guard. No matter what happens, having a backup will help you to get your data back in case of an emergency. Cloud services provide a limited backup and recovery functionality, yet using specialized backup tools give advanced options. 

If you use Microsoft 365 (formerly known as Office 365), you may try SpinBackup, one of the top Microsoft 365 cloud backup solutions to protect your cloud data. 

Exploring Your Cloud Environment

Cloud services like Microsoft 365 and G Suite provide phishing and malware protection options. It’s crucial for an administrator to explore the built-in functionality and configure it to improve the security. For example, setting up two-factor authentication is one of the best cloud security practices.

Trainings and Education

Though many companies went remote, it’s still possible to arrange a training session using various communication tools like Zoom or Skype. Make sure that all your colleagues understand the phishing threat and ways to protect against it.

Of course, relying on training only will not give you a 100% phishing protection, yet it will help to detect a significant number of phishing emails.

Use Multi-layered Anti-phishing Approach

Combining your attention to cybersecurity tools is vital to protect your cloud data from phishing and malware. Human error is what hackers try to provoke by composing smart phishing emails. Ultimately, being attentive to all links you click and all documents you download will boost the security level of your cloud greatly. And if something goes wrong, a backup will help you to restore lost data. 


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