Coronavirus may infect and cause malicious activities in your smartphone; but how?

  • Kaspersky and IBM X-Force security researchers have found a series of the malware campaigns which are using the coronavirus as a hook

  • The health crisis in China has reached emergency status forcing authorities and organisations to impose conveyance barricades

While UK is celebrating 'Brexit,' the final goodbye to the European Union, China revealed that the death toll due to the coronavirus outbreak has hit to 259 infecting over 11,800 people in the Asian country.

The health crisis in China has reached emergency status with authorities and organisations alike imposing conveyance barricades, devising remote treatment terminals and more in order to contain the epidemic. Meanwhile, new reports emerged stating that the cybercriminals are taking advantage of this global fear.

During such an alarming situation, many directives and documents are floating around the internet which claims to deliver updates or news, related to the crisis. But before sharing any of these documents or information, you have to think twice as the threat actors are now sending out malware-laden emails using the coronavirus as a hook to try and get victims to open infected messages.

Coronavirus malware

Coronavirus malware Reuters

Security researchers at Kaspersky have revealed that the PDF files, documents and videos which are being shared as coronavirus preventives, are nothing but trojans and malware in disguise. An analyst at the security firm Anton Ivanov stated that the coronavirus has already been used as bait by cybercriminals.

He mentioned that so far they have detected only 10 unique files, "But as this sort of activity often happens with popular media topics then we expect that this tendency may grow. As people continue to be worried about their health, we may see more and more malware hidden inside fake documents about the coronavirus being spread."

Along with Kaspersky, IBM X-Force, a cloud-based threat intelligence platform also detected this recent spate of malicious, botnet-driven emails using coronavirus as a theme. As per the IBM X-Force, the emails purport to have attached notices regarding coronavirus prevention measures.

They also mentioned that most of the emails have been seen written in Japanese, suggesting that the operators behind the malware campaign are intentionally targeting geographic regions which may be more affected by the virus outbreak given their locations in Asia, including the major population centres of Gifu, Osaka and Tottori.

Malware in disguise

A writeup from IBM X-Force revealed that the malicious emails appear to be sent by a disability welfare service provider in Japan while the text states that "There have been reports of coronavirus patients in the Gifu prefecture in Japan and urges the reader to view the attached document."

It should be mentioned that these emails also have a footer with a legitimate mailing address, phone and fax numbers for the relevant public health authority for the targeted prefectures, to lend an air of authenticity.

IBM X-Force stated that earlier "Japanese Emotet emails have been focused on corporate style payment notifications and invoices, following a similar strategy as emails targeting European victims" but this time the approach of sharing the malware may be significantly more successful because of the coronavirus epidemic.

These malicious files disguised as pdf, mp4, Docx files and trick people to believe that all of these files include instructions on how to protect yourself from the coronavirus, the updates as well as virus-detection procedures. But as per the researchers, these files contain a series of threats including Trojans and worms that are capable of destroying, blocking, modifying or copying data. These malicious activities can also interfere with the operation of computers or computer networks.

Coronavirus effect on the tech market

Other reports have revealed a completely different scenario related to the virus outbreak. As per Al Jazeera, this epidemic could disrupt India's production of smartphones if it continues to spread in February. India who is the biggest smartphone maker after China is largely depended on Communist-ruled country for supplies of parts such as cells, display panels, camera modules and printed circuit boards.

S N Rai, the cofounder of homegrown smartphone maker Lava said that "Those disruptions were already planned, but if it [the virus's spread] gets prolonged, then for March and April production, we will have serious trouble."

Related topics : Coronavirus Cybersecurity