As if humans weren’t enough, the coronavirus is now being used to infect unsuspecting users mobile phones and PCs. Since the growing pandemic caused by the deadly disease, netizens have been sharing documents, photos and other files containing information about the virus, its modes of transmission, symptoms, etc with their friends and family online. To hackers and cybercriminals this served as the perfect opportunity to create documents about the coronavirus loaded with malware, spyware, ransomware and bots to infect unsuspecting users machines.
This comes from a report by Kaspersky, a software company that manufactures antiviruses for PCs and mobile phones. They’ve identified 10 unique files floating around the internet, spreading malware under the guise of helpful PDFs on how to stay safe from the virus. Kaspersky expects this number to only grow as cybercriminals and hackers use this topic as bait. The malware bundled with these files are capable of blocking a device in demand of ransom, copying and/or modifying the device’s contents and potentially stealing sensitive information such as credit and debit card numbers, addresses, other payment information, passwords and saved login credentials.
How to identify malicious files
There are multiple red flags that you should look for before opening any document or file online. The first thing to check for would be the extension of the file. Often, the name and extension of a file do not match up, such as a document that should be a .pdf file or a video that should be a .mp4 instead has the file extension .exe or .lnk. You should be especially careful of files with .exe extensions, as .exe files are usually never meant to be opened on mobile devices and are most likely hiding trojans or worms inside of them.
Second, always check the file name in the details section of the file. Keywords to look for and avoid would be Trojan, Worm, Agent, Worm and LNK. File names with too many dots in them are also a red flag, such as a file named something along the lines of “Trojan.WinLNK.Agent.gg”.
Third, do not open links to unknown or untrusted websites (commonly disguised in the form of links to articles and informative posts), they may lead to websites that inject your device with malware upon loading the website, or by automatically downloading a file upon clicking the website link. If you do see a file being downloaded upon opening a link (without you explicitly trying to download something), proceed to delete that file immediately.
PCs and laptops are relatively safer than mobile devices as most PCs and laptops nowadays run on Windows 10, which comes pre-equipped with Windows Defender antivirus software, that actively scans all files that you download on your PC and scans and blocks access to suspicious websites. Mobile users can download a trusted antivirus app from the Google Play Store to scan their device in case they see any strange behaviour or abrupt performance degradation in their devices.
While Apple devices are much better protected from viruses and malware as compared to android phones, they are still not immune to them and iPhone and iPad users must also take care when downloading files and opening links on the internet.