Of all the cyber-incidents the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has tackled in the past year, more than a quarter used the Covid-19 pandemic to hook victims. This is according to the organization’s annual report, which covers the period between September 2019 and August 2020.
All in all, the NCSC tackled 723 incidents, 10 percent more than the same period last year. Of that number almost 200 were related to Covid-19 and were mostly criminal in nature. Some, however, were designed for industrial espionage, as certain players tried to obtain the UK’s research on a potential Covid-19 vaccine.
The agency also recorded thousands of phishing emails over the period. The NCSC said it thwarted 15,354 campaigns in which the attackers used coronavirus as a way to trick victims into downloading an email attachment or opening a shady link. In some cases, emails advertised fake shops that allegedly sold protective gear, Covid tests and even vaccines.
Earlier this year, the BBC notes, the UK accused Russian state-sponsored cybercrime groups of attempting to steal its vaccine-related research. At the time, UK officials claimed the country was facing an “ongoing threat” from states looking to access their coronavirus data.
Cybercriminals all over the world have attempted to capitalize on the Covid-19 pandemic. Since March, they have lured people into downloading malware with the promise of information about the virus, and misinformation surrounding government policies has been rife. Hackers also targeted healthcare institutions, locking vital systems via ransomware attacks, putting the lives of patients at risk.