How to Stay Safe Online During the COVID-19 Outbreak
The COVID-19 outbreak has taken the world by surprise. In these unprecedented times, it is important to know who you can trust. Unfortunately, there are some people who are looking to benefit off of the grief and anxiety of others. COVID-19 scams are running rampant right now. We’ve outlined how to stay safe online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Malicious Coronavirus Emails
Scammers are sending emails while posing as various professional health organizations such as the CDC and the World Health Organization. Most of these emails are known as phishing emails, which are used to lure the receiver to click a malicious link. These links often impersonate other websites like banks or other accounts. The fake websites prompt you to log in or enter credit cards information. The consequences of handing this information over a malicious site can be crippling. Other links may send you to websites that install Malware onto your computer.
How to Spot COVID-19 Scams in Your Email
The number one rule of thumb is to always be cautious. Therefore, never immediately click a link or download attachments from ANY email. You want to be 100% sure of its authenticity. Here is how to tell if an email is a legitimate and avoid COVID-19 scams:
- Check the sender’s email address
If the sender’s email address does not end with the company’s domain (for example, an email from the CDC would look something like firstname.lastname@example.org), it is almost always a sure sign of spam. Flag the email and trash it. If it does match, that is a good sign. However, it is possible for hackers to spoof emails to look like the real thing, so check for the next things as well.
- Look for typos and grammar mistakes
Professional emails are usually read by a few pairs of eyes internally before it gets sent out to the public masses. This means typos and grammar mistakes are generally caught before the email hits your inbox. Scam emails are often written by one person. Additionally, it is not uncommon for the emails to have poor English translations if its origin is international. If you notice any typos or grammar mistakes, it is best to flag and trash the email.
- Check the destination URL of any links
Hyperlinks allow the sender to type whatever they want and have that text link to any website on the web. This means that just because you see a link to a website, doesn’t mean your destination will be that website. This is one of the main ways hackers obtain your information. To check the actual destination of a link, hover your mouse over it and you should see the revealed URL somewhere in your email program or browser.Test this by hovering over this link to the CDC’s website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/
As you can hopefully see, this actually links to our homepage. Refrain from clicking any link that will not bring you where you’d expect. Remember that this method of link checking works on hyperlinked images and regular text as well. If you receive a notice, you can always call your vendor directly to check on a notice or browse out directly to the vendor’s website instead of clicking on the email’s link.
Working From Home
If you are working from home or have employees working from home, you may be leaving sensitive information vulnerable. Hackers are targeting more and more people working from home in hopes to gain corporate information. Keeping yourself and your team informed on the email information above can tremendously minimize the risk of a data leak.
Another thing to do is to provide legitimate resources for employees to go to if something goes wrong. Whether it’s your internal IT department or the Microsoft help desk, giving a direct resource minimizes the chance of being baited by fake tech support.
Lastly, make sure you and your team have secure WiFi network and have changed the default password on their router. You will be off the secure work network, so double check that you are not leaving yourself to potential risks.
Being vigilant is the best way to stay safe. If you’re unsure about an email, asking for a second opinion is better than taking the risk. Run it by a colleague, or contact Appletree with any questions. We can provide tech support and help you identify suspicious emails or web pages.
Websites and the CryptoPHP Infection
Could Your Site Be Infected?
If your website uses a content management system such as WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal, you will want to be aware of the CryptoPHP infection. Like many infections of this nature, the CryptoPHP infection is both sneaky, and can spread the maliciousness once it’s there, so it’s good to be aware of it if you may have the potential to encounter it.
So Just What Is it?
CryptoPHP is an infection that works like a botnet. It is a sophisticated program that uses your website to conduct illegal “black-hat” SEO tactics such as adding links to other, possibly malicious websites. It can also upgrade itself, and since it communicates with other servers it can update itself and behave as a drone that could do anything from sending spam to attacking other sites.
How Do You Get it?
CryptoPHP is acquired by downloading and installing a theme to their WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal site – specifically a free theme found online. The infected theme has a nulled script that contains a line of code that appears to include PHP but instead appears to call on an image. Hidden inside the image is the real, malicious code.
How Can I Prevent It?
There are a few simple ways to avoid infection:
- Don’t use free downloaded themes on your site – it is difficult to tell what is infected and what is not.
- Don’t accumulate extra “unused” themes just sitting around on your site. It’s easy to collect dozens of these while trying them out, but best to reduce this number as much as possible. Your current theme and ones in development are all you really need.
- The sites we here at Appletree Mediaworks LLC create are CryptoPHP-free.
How To Know If You’re Infected
For WordPress: Install the Wordfence plugin and enable the option to scan images – CryptoPHP hides in a png image, but is actually obfuscated code. This will detect the infection.
Other sites: Download all source code and search for this line:
<?php include(‘assets/images/social.png’); ?>
Our sites here at Appletree MediaWorks LLC are CryptoPHP-free. If you have concerns over your own sites, or have any questions on keeping your website up to date and secure, contact us or visit our blog for more information.
For More Information on CryptoPHP – http://www.wordfence.com/blog/2014/11/wordpress-security-nulled-scripts-cryptophp-infection/