Cyber spies warn of cyber criminals as coronavirus scam emails increase

The UK’s cyber security agency has launched a service which allows people to report suspicious emails to them.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has warned of criminals increasingly looking to use the coronavirus pandemic as a way to scam people.

In response, the centre has launched a Cyber Aware campaign while the UK’s top spy has also urged people to be more vigilant online.

Jeremy Fleming, director of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) which oversees the NCSC, wrote in the Daily Mail that the current “crisis is changing the world very fast … the scale of activity among opportunistic cybercriminals seeking to profit from the virus should concern us all”.

GCHQ centenary
GCHQ director Jeremy Fleming has urged people to be vigilant online during the pandemic (Joe Giddens/PA)

NCSC’s campaign offers a range of general online safety advice to UK internet users, including tips on how to protect passwords, accounts and devices.

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It also includes new advice on how to use video calling apps such as Zoom securely, following security concerns being raised about the use of such apps.

Alongside it, the NCSC has also launched its Suspicious Email Reporting Service, which will allow people to forward emails they believe to be scams to the centre for analysis and further action.

Developed in conjunction with the City of London Police, users can forward emails to [email protected] and the NCSC’s automated­ program will immediately test the validity of any linked site.

The centre says it will build on its existing takedown services, which have removed more than 2,000 scams related to coronavirus in the last month, including over 450 fake online shops selling fraudulent Covid-19 related items and other scams.

A number of consumer organisations and agencies have warned of an increase in cyber crime looking to take advantage of fears around the Covid-19 outbreak.

A recent survey by TSB suggested that 42% of people believe they have been targeted by a bogus email since the outbreak began.

NCSC chief executive Ciaran Martin said: “”With greater use of technology, there are different ways attackers can harm all of us. But everyone can help to stop them by following the guidance campaign we have launched today.

As part of the campaign, the centre has also updated its online database of security information with new guidance on the secure use of video conferencing services.

Video calling platforms have become increasingly popular since lockdown measures were introduced, as millions turned to them to communicate with colleagues while working from home, and stay in touch with friends and family.

However, apps such as Zoom have come under scrutiny over security concerns – with some people reporting examples of video calls on the platform being hijacked by strangers.

Zoom has taken a number of steps to improve its security settings in response to concerns and has stopped all new feature development to focus on security.

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