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Guide to Overcoming COVID-19 Malicious Websites

Unfortunately, threat actors won’t stop at anything. They’re now taking advantage of the COVID-19 situation as an opportunity to create malicious sites disguised as coronavirus-related resources like public health updates, news, disease spread maps, and pleas to donate to emergency funds and charitable campaigns.

In May 2020, the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security issued a notice dubbed COVID-19 & Malicious Websites (ITSAP.00.103). Cybercriminals have successfully stolen sensitive data with these malicious websites, spread malware to compromise or damage devices or systems, and misinformed the public.

Opportunistic scammers aren’t the only ones exploiting people and organizations during the pandemic. Espionage groups from different corners of the globe send out spear-phishing emails designed to find any opportunity to access corporate networks.

Fortunately, there’s hope. You can follow some best practices to identify and avoid these websites and adopt practical recovery strategies if you’ve fallen prey to these attacks.

Red Flags of an Illegitimate Website

At first glance, a fake website may seem legitimate, imitating the design, logo, and colours of the original one. If you’re not keen, you may click on it or submit security details, thinking that you’re logging in to a particular site you regularly use.

To protect your organization and staff from scam websites and keep your digital assets safe, always check for the following red flags as you get the most out of the internet.

  • Overly emotional language – A site that communicates in ways that trigger emotions can be risky. Be cautious if the message has an elevated level of optimism, fear, or urgency.
  • No identifying pages – A proper corporate website must have critical pages like the About Us and Contact Us sections. Be on guard if the contact is a mobile phone number, if the call goes unanswered, or if the company is trying to avoid verbal communication.
  • Awkward grammar – Legitimate sites prioritize content quality, so issues like stilted or broken English, spelling mistakes, or obvious grammar errors could indicate a bad site.
  • Poorly designed website – This may be an obvious tip, but it’s important to closely assess a website’s design and visual quality to see if it matches that of a legitimate site. Look out for bad layouts and low-resolution images.

How to Avoid Scam Websites

You must always practise care and caution when navigating the internet to identify and bypass malicious websites. While it may be hard to avoid such sites entirely, great online behaviour can prevent them from compromising your systems.

These strategies will help you avoid malicious websites:

Review the Domain Name

Malicious websites created to spoof legitimate ones often choose domain names appearing similar to the primary address. For instance, a spoof site might read www.canada.com instead of www.canada.ca. You should pay attention to web addresses ending with .org or .net since they’re usually not common among shopping sites.

You may even go deeper to learn the person who registered the URL or domain name using platforms like whois.net at no cost.

Be Cautious with Your Payment Method

A rule of thumb is always to avoid websites that request payments via direct bank transfer. If you transfer money to an account, yet the transaction is fake, you’ll never recover a cent. Credit card payments offer an additional protection layer should things go wrong.

It Shouldn’t Feel Too Good to Be True

Most successful fraudster practices promise gratifications surpassing your wildest dreams and only require minimal effort from your side or a bit of your time. So always be cautious when an offer seems too good to be true.

Do you think the prices of the individual items are excessively discounted and unbelievable? Does the website promise extreme weight loss or larger muscles if you use their product for just two weeks? Is there a full-proof strategy to earn your fortune? Always check out the offers since you can never go wrong if you ignore something that sounds too good to be true.

Research

If you’re still unable to make up your mind on a particular site, try conducting an internet search for people’s opinions and reviews about the website. Business reputation, whether bad or good, can spread widely on the web. If someone has had a bad experience, they’ve probably talked about it online. A little research will show you whether anyone has been scammed on the particular site.

The fact that there’s no proper review shouldn’t be enough to assume the best. The site could be new. So ensure you consider vast factors to ensure you aren’t their first victim.

Only Open Sites with Secure Connection

Legitimate websites that request secure or financial data usually have the company name on the browser bar, right beside the URL. It should also have a padlock sign symbolizing that you’re using a secure connection. If the symbol is lacking, or your browser sends a warning that the website lacks an updated security certificate, close the tab immediately.

First-rate security software can substantially boost your system security since they provide an extra protection layer.

Corrective Steps for Victims of Malicious Websites

If you’ve fallen victim to a coronavirus scam or malicious website, you still have the power to minimize the threat actor’s ability to exploit you or leave a substantial impact.

Here are the most effective steps to take after a successful attack to keep the damage as low as possible:

  • Cut any communication with the threat actor if you were already talking
  • Prevent unwanted charges by cancelling every compromised credit card
  • Halt any ongoing or pending payments to them
  • Update your key PINs and passwords, including email and banking accounts
  • Prevent them from misusing your identity to effect new account fraud by freezing your credit
  • Report the event to any institution or service provider that might help

One great way of preventing future scams to your company and others is by notifying the relevant authorities.

The Bottom Line

More organizations are falling prey to malicious websites during the pandemic’s “new normal.” Threat actors are compromising systems in both established organizations and young businesses, so everyone needs the correct strategies to stay ahead of the innovative schemes by cybercriminals. But it’s not as simple as it seems, especially for SMEs with limited resources.

Fortunately, OnServe will offer relief from all your cybersecurity challenges to ensure your crucial digital assets are secured from all forms of attacks. Get ahold of us to learn how our services can be helpful.