In parallel with the biological pandemic, a cyber pandemic may be well underway.  Cyber crime costs UK-based organizations billions of pounds each year and poses a significant threat to human health and national security. In 2020, over 34.5 million pounds were siphoned out of UK bank accounts due to coronavirus-related threats alone.

UK sees (and stops) massive spike in threats

Since March of 2020, the UK’s police forces recorded over 6,000 instances of coronavirus-related fraud attempts. This includes a 42% increase in shopping fraud and a 20% bump in romance scheme fraud.

According to the data, April and May of 2020 saw the highest levels of cyber crime, followed by a spike in January of 2021. “Sadly, we have seen devious criminals taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic as a means to commit fraud, often honing in on people’s anxieties and the changes that have occurred to their daily lives,” stated Ian Dyson, City of London Police Commissioner.

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) of London describes takedowns of multiple websites dedicated to fake coronavirus paraphernalia. The Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU) of London arrested 56 individuals complicit in coronavirus-related crimes. Of this group, 27% of the criminals operated intensive coronavirus “smishing” schemes (phishing as delivered via text message).

Since March, as many as 30 London-based cyber criminals stood trial and received convictions. In the same timeframe, 773 social media accounts used to execute fraudulent initiatives were removed from the web.

Attacks on pandemic response infrastructure

Some cyber criminals have set their sights on toying with pandemic response infrastructure. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre announced ramped up efforts to remove these threats. Underground criminals are working to breach the NHS, vaccine producers and vaccine supply chains. As many as 10 significant ransomware attacks have hurt health organizations from March 2020 to date.

For more information about the cyber pandemic and coronavirus-related scams, visit Computer Weekly.