As the government begins to issue COVID-19 stimulus payments, cyberattackers are looking to scam individuals out of their money, a Check Point report released today found.

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With the Federal government rolling out $2 trillion of Economic Impact Payments, cybercriminals are using phishing techniques to attempt to trick individuals out of their payments. The report found that since January a total of 4,305 domains relating to new stimulus/relief packages have been registered – the majority of the domains (2,554) were registered in March and April. The number of registered domains seems to be escalating as Congress cont

inues to pass COVID-19 relief bills, “In the past two weeks … almost 17,000 new coronavirus-related domains had been registered (16,989 to be exact),” the report said.

Of the domains registered in March and April, Check Point found that 56 were considered “malicious” and 656 were considered “suspicious.”

To avoid COVID-19 economic stimulus phishing scams, Check Point urged individuals to:

  • “Beware of lookalike domains, spelling errors in emails or websites, and unfamiliar email senders.
  • Be cautious with files received via email from unknown senders, especially if they prompt for a certain action you would not usually do.
  • Ensure you are ordering goods from an authentic source. One way to do this is NOT to click on promotional links in emails, and instead, Google your desired retailer and click the link from the Google results page.
  • Beware of “special” offers. “An exclusive cure for coronavirus for $150” is usually not a reliable or trustworthy purchase opportunity. At this point of time there is no cure for the coronavirus and even if there was, it definitely would not be offered to you via an email.
  • Make sure you do not reuse passwords between different applications and accounts.”

Additionally, the report urged organizations to prevent zero-day attacks by using end-to-end cyber architecture to block deceptive phishing sites and provide alerts on password reuse in real time.

Outside of stimulus related attacks, Check Point noticed a sharp spike in more general COVID-19 related attacks.

“We have also seen a huge increase in the number of attacks, to an average of 14,000 a day, which is six times the average number of daily attacks when compared to the previous two weeks,” Check Point said. “And over the past week from 7th April, the average number of daily attacks increased sharply to 20,000.”

The report also found that cybercriminals are turning to phishing attacks during the pandemic. “Ninety-four percent of coronavirus-related attacks during the past two weeks were phishing attacks, while three percent were mobile attacks (either via dedicated mobile malware or via malicious activity carried out on a mobile device),” the report said.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.