COVID-19 survival guide for your digital life

With everyone stuck at home to avoid COVID-19 exposure, working, socializing, and even homeschooling online, cybercriminals see a smorgasbord of ways to exploit the situation.

Tips to help telecommuters and other quarantined folks stay safe online while staying home in the midst of COVID-19 epidemic and social distancing

All of a sudden, we find our entire lives playing out online. Never before has the connected world — and our ability to communicate, socialize, work, and transact online — been more front-of-mind, or more critical. Although the ability to do so much online is incredible, the reality is, where people go, cybercriminals follow. If an opportunity exists to exploit a situation and lure people into disclosing personal data or relinquishing their money, you can guarantee that cybercriminals will be working on it.

We have already seen examples of malware related to 2019’s novel coronavirus, aka COVID-19, trying to piggyback on the virus, hiding malicious files in documents purporting to relate to the disease, but the opportunities for our online security to be compromised don’t end there.

Streaming

Recent weekends have already seen the highest levels of online streaming ever, with millions who would normally be out socializing in bars and restaurants being forced to stay home. This has put streaming services under huge strain and has seen some of the major companies lower the quality of the content to try and minimise slowdowns. Nevertheless, the impact will undoubtedly lead some people to look for alternative ways to access online content.

However, straying from the protected portals of legitimate streaming services for films, games, and other content plays into the hands of cybercriminals. As tempting as it may be to find other sources of content, we advise patience. Stick to trusted streaming services, and follow these tips for safe online streaming:

  • Use trusted sources — services for which you have a subscription. Double-check URL format and company name spelling before you download anything. Fake websites may look just like the real thing, but there will be anomalies to help you spot the difference.
  • Pay attention to the extension of the downloaded file. Video files should not end with .exe.
  • Be very careful if you use torrents. Look up comments about downloadable files, for example, and if you see comments unrelated to the content, you are probably looking at malware.
  • Protect the devices you use for streaming and make sure you apply updates to your operating system and applications as soon as they become available.
  • Avoid links promising early viewing of content, and if you have any doubt about the authenticity of content — for example, if you’re not sure something is actually available in your region — check with your entertainment provider.
  • Use a credit card if possible for payments, but try to avoid saving card details to the streaming site.
  • Use a unique, complex password for each of your online accounts.

Shopping

Demand is already surging for online shopping services as people seek to buy food, entertainment, and other goods online. That, coupled with boredom shopping, as well as desirable offers from retailers trying to stay afloat as economies are hit, means cybercriminals will be prowling.

Peak shopping points see corresponding increases in shopping-related malware and phishing attacks, because online criminals like to seize the opportunity to catch people out with deals that often seem too good to be true. And they usually are. For that reason, we advise consumers to be extra vigilant at this time and remember these tips when shopping online and opening e-mails from online retailers:

  • Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true — they usually are.
  • Type the URL into your browser to check the deal on the website rather than clicking on links in e-mails.
  • Check for the padlock sign/HTTPS in the address bar when paying. Keep in mind, though, that this padlock means safety only if the website address is correct, so check twice!
  • Use a credit card rather than a debit card for extra payment protection.
  • Avoid saving your card details to a website.
  • Protect devices used for shopping and make sure you apply patches and updates as soon as possible.
  • Use a unique, complex password for each of your online accounts.

Fake news

Fake news is nothing new; we’ve seen how it has affected significant events in the past. During national and global crises, however, the issue and impact of fake news proliferation is more real than ever. At this time, it is particularly important to pay attention to the source and validity of information before sharing or acting on it.

We have already seen bad health advice about anti-inflammatory drugs circulating through various media, including WhatsApp and social networks, and even through valid online news sites. The proliferation of fake news will only slow and confuse efforts to disseminate helpful and essential information and advice. For this reason, we recommend that people take extra care to validate the information they consume and share to avoid adding to the problem.

  • Trust only reputable and validated news sites.
  • Seek to validate information passed along by word of mouth including messaging apps and social media.
  • If you can’t validate information, don’t share it. Be responsible with information you pass along or repost.

Telecommuting and security

Tips

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