During the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, Kerala recorded the highest number of cyber attacks followed by Punjab and Tamil Nadu, a study by anti-virus software firm K7 Computing said on Thursday.
In a statement issued in Chennai, the company said its K7 Computing's Cyber Threat Report, a comprehensive analysis of cyber attacks during the lockdown has found that Kerala recorded the highest number of cyber attacks during this period. The report analyses various cyber attacks within India during the pandemic and reveals that threat actors targeted the state with COVID-themed attacks aimed at exploiting user trust.
In Kerala, regions like Kottayam, Kannur, Kollam, and Kochi saw the highest hits with 462, 374, 236, and 147 attacks respectively, while the state as a whole saw around 2,000 attacks during the period - the highest thus far in the country.
This was followed by Punjab with 207 attacks and Tamil Nadu with 184 attacks, the company said.
The sudden surge in the frequency of attacks witnessed from February 2020 to mid-April 2020 indicates that scamsters across the world were exploiting the widespread panic around coronavirus at both the individual and corporate level.
These attacks aimed to compromise computers and mobile devices to gain access to users' confidential data, banking details, and cryptocurrency accounts.
The key threats seen during this period ranged from phishing attacks to rogue apps disguised as COVID-19 information apps that targeted users' sensitive data. Phishing attacks were noticed more in Tier-II and Tier-III cities while the metros fared better. Smaller cities saw over 250 attacks being blocked per 10,000 users.
Users from Ghaziabad and Lucknow seem to have faced almost 6 and 4 times the number of attacks as Bengaluru users.
According to the statement, a majority of the recorded attacks were phishing attacks with sophisticated campaigns that could easily snare even the most educated users. These attacks were aimed at heightening users' fears and creating a sense of urgency to take action.
K7 Labs noticed phishing attacks where scamsters posed as representatives of the United States Department of Treasury, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the company said.
Users were encouraged to visit links that would automatically download malware on the host computer such as the Agent Tesla keylogger or Lokibot information-stealing malware, infamous banking Trojans such as Trickbot or Zeus Sphinx, and even disastrous ransomware.
Other attacks included infected COVID-19 Android apps like CoronaSafetyMask that scam users with promises of masks for an upfront payment; the spyware app Project Spy; and seemingly genuine apps that are infected with dangerous malware like banking Trojans such as Ginp, Anubis and Cerberus.
"Covid-19 has created an ideal situation for various threat actors to target individuals and enterprises alike. The panic caused by the stringent lockdown measures and rapid spread of this virus has left many people looking for more information on the situation," J. Kesavardhanan, Founder and CEO of K7 Computing was quoted as saying in the statement.
"Threat actors exploit this fear to their advantage and scam users into downloading malicious software and divulging sensitive information like banking codes. The need to be cyber cautious has never been greater. This is more so in the case of corporates who have adopted a work from home policy hurriedly without adequate cyber hygiene. We have seen an increase in attacks on enterprises and SME employees as well," he added.
Such attacks are expected to continue till normalcy returns. Social engineering attacks targeted at winning users' trust will gain momentum.
Healthcare institutions, well-known government offices, and international organisations will continue to be a prime target throughout the pandemic, the statement said.