Tower Health reminds the community to be aware of an increase of COVID-19 themed malicious cyber activity and encourages individuals and businesses to follow safe email practices to reduce the risk of falling victim to scams or destructive computer viruses.
“It is important to educate yourself on common phishing practices, how to identify potential attacks, and steps to protect yourself from this type of attack,” said Michelle Trupp, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Tower Health. “If you receive an email from an individual or organization that you aren’t familiar with you should never click on the link or the attachment.”
Online attacks frequently target individuals and organizations with COVID-19 related scams or phishing emails, which seek to get the recipient to share personal information like a Social Security or bank account number. Often these emails appear to be from legitimate sources, such as the World Health Organization, the CDC, or a local health organization. Many can include a Word or Excel attachment with instructions to download it. Doing so then infects the individual’s computer with malicious code.
Common lures for scams or phishing campaigns include:
- Using the subject of “coronavirus updates” or “New confirmed cases in your City.”
- Warnings that you have come into contact with a “colleague/friend/family member who has COVID-19. The email then instructs the recipient to download and print an Excel spreadsheet. The spreadsheet contains malicious computer code.
- Emails from a non-profit offering free COVID-19 testing.
- A relief payment scam offering recipients $2,500 if they complete an attached application form.
- A refund payment scam asking recipients to click a link to collect a refund.
“It is unfortunate that criminals are taking advantage of the public’s concern about COVID-19,” Ms. Trupp said. “But with some commonsense precautions you can protect yourself. If you receive something suspicious from a friend or family member, call them first to make sure they sent it to you. You can always check the web sites of your local health system, established media sources and local, state, and federal health authorities for legitimate COVID-19 information.”