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Going a-Phishing with COVID-19

Over the last range of months concerning the global pandemic, the Coronavirus has led to confusion to many throughout the world and uncertainty in the marketplace. As crime can be influenced by a number of different events, one may be the effect on individuals from panic and frustration, as well the adversities faced by people during their need to look for help. This has led to cybercriminals which have take advantage of the situation and have engaged in various forms of malicious activity, being a threat faced by many different countries.

In the recent article posted on March 6th by CybersecAsia, “Going a-phishing with COVID-19,” writer Victor Ng discusses some of cybercrimes that have increasingly resulted from the outbreak, which primarily included phishing attacks amongst consumers of financial institutions, government organizations, along with many small to large businesses and corporations. According to CybersecAsia’s article, there have already been confirmed reportings of cybercriminal’s attempting to impersonate a government official which occurred only three weeks in Singapore after the first confirmed infection was recieved. Phishing is widely known as a term for the “practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.” The phishing attacks along with various spam campaigns have been occurring at higher rates since global news has first brought attention to the effects of the Coronavirus, as implied through CybersecAsia and many reports regarding Asia’s cyber landscape.

The cybercriminals involved have utilized the reactions of people and compromised emails of important matter that have been sent to individuals by their familiar entities in efforts of successful exploitation. The matter is of concern to not only Singapore’s cyber landscape, but as well as other individuals that are prone to cybercriminal exposure. The exploitations committed by criminals utilizing the events to their advantage may lead to identity theft, or stealing financial accounts and money. The increase of cybercriminal activity has noticeably resulted in many new websites being formed with related domain names to the virus, including “vaccinecovid.19/.com as an example on one website registered in Russia. Senior digital analyist Oleg Sulkin from Group-IB states how most emails have been created in English, along with containing “links that redirected users to phishing websites that mimicked Outlook Web Access or Office 365.”

Victor Ng adds that Japan is also a target of the ongoing activity fueled by the chain effect, where some cities have had new reportings of malicious email attachments, as victims are encouraged to open documents that may direct them to information about safety precautions during the pandemic, and even links to purchase a testers or a false vaccine. Evan Dumas, the regional director of Check Point Software Technologies within Southeast Asia has stated that during January and February 2020, “the most prominent Coronavirus-themed campaign targeted Japan, distributing Emotet in malicious email attachments pretending to be sent by a Japanese disability welfare service provider.” Emotet is one of many malware strains used by cybercrime operations to steal data and credentials.

One of the most significant efforts of reducing the illegal and malicious activities posed by cybercriminals exploiting the Coronavirus situation in the CybersecAsia article would be made by the software security companies. One of the cybersecurity companies mentioned, Crowdstrike, notes that “threat hunting is highly complementary to the standard process of incident detection, response and remediation.” Typically leads that detect cybersecurity threats are identified by human threat hunters, which are extracted through analyzing raw data, and through queries and automation.

VMware is another one of the companies aimed to reduce the phishing attacks and malicious activity, with results of reinforcing the defenses in 94% of the organizations they provided threat-hunting efforts for in Singapore. Server digital fingerprints, as well as IP addresses and domain names that are involved with cybercrime attacks and investigations have been recorded over the years by companies such as Group-IB, and are being used in order to predict future activity concerning the increase of exploitation. Group-IB has also conveyed their use of a Graphic Network Analysis chart, which facilitates researchers as they continue to detect criminal cyberactivity and hunt leads.

Questions:

What do you think some of the dangers may be with cybercriminal exploitation during this time of the Coronvirus outbreak and individuals effected by it?

What are some of the tactics cybercriminals have used in taking advantage of the ongoing COVID-19 situation?

What are methods that can also be suggested for use to reduce cybercrime in areas of Asia such as Singapore or Japan?

Reference:

Ng, V. (2020, March 6). Going a-phishing with COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.cybersecasia.net/features/going-a-phishing-with-covid-19
The Cambodian Government’s Response Towards COVID-19

In Cambodia, the arrest of people for expressing concern about COVID-19, wanting more information about COVID-19, and speaking out about the virus has caused an increase in arrests. Cambodia authorities claim individuals are spreading “fake news” and causing fear among Cambodian citizens. The organization, Human Rights Watch, documented the arrest of several individuals, including 17 people, all who were seeking more information about COVID-19. Human Rights Watch (2020) reports the arrest of a 14-year-old girl who “expressed fears on social media about rumors of positive COVID-19 cases at her school in her province”.The Cambodian government threatens the right of Freedom of Speech. According to Human Rights Watch, twelve people were released from detention, but were only released after apologizing and signing pledges to not spread “fake news”.

The article highlights the issue of the Cambodian government using the COVID-19 outbreak to look up those who oppose the government, express concern about the outbreak, and the government’s response to the outbreak. The members of the former CNRP or the Cambodia National Rescue Party have been arrested due to their involvement in expressing concern about the spread of the coronavirus. Ngin, a CMRP youth member, was arrested because Ngin allegedly spread “fake news” on Facebook, and is being charged with “plotting and investment to commit a felony. A CNRP supporter, Phut Thona Lorn, was arrested based on two videos he shared on his Facebook page. Phut Thona Lorn spoke about the Cambodian government needing assistance from the Vietnamese government due to a foreign arrival who had tested positive for COVID-19. The Cambodian government had monitored Phut Thona Lorn’s account for an entire week with no legal basis to do so. One of the former CNRP members, Long Phary, was arrested based on a phone call Phary made where he alleged spread rumors about the spread of the coronavirus. Questioning how the Cambodia government knew the information spoken in the private phone call brought up the past issue of the government’s involvement in unauthorized phone tapping of social activists and political opposing members.

The former CNRP threatened the current political party in Cambodia. Therefore, several questions arise from the arrest of former CNRP members, including Is the Cambodian government using the COVID-19 outbreak as a strategy to get rid of former CNRP members, who would people back up because of the current situation? By preventing people from expressing concern about the virus, is the Cambodian government trying to control the people from an uprising by hiding the facts of COVID-19?

In addition, 17 people from 7 provinces were arrested and faced penal code violations, including “incitement, conspiracy, and spreading false information (Human Rights Watch, 2020). By penalizing people who express concern about COVID-19 by placing charges of spreading false information, it can create a false sense of safety, because people will believe the virus is not dangerous. It also demonstrates the length the Cambodian government is willing to go to censor people and prevent people from being informed on COVID-19.

The Cambodian government has only reported 86 cases of COVID-19 throughout the country. An alarming issue arises when the government decides to underreport the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. It causes uncertainty and fear among people of whether the virus is contagious. On the other hand, people may not think COVID-19 is a problem. Therefore, people do not make efforts to prevent the virus, which places many people at risk for contracting COVID-19. The Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, had initially downplayed the virus by threatening to force reporters and officials out who were wearing face masks during a news conference. However, Prime Minister Hun Sen later imposed a 30-day ban on people arriving from Italy, Germany, Spain, France, the United States, and France. The Prime Minister demonstrated the lack of uncertainty of the outbreak and the possible knowledge of the seriousness of the outbreak, but not expressing concern or taking further action to prevent the virus raises a serious alarm. The Prime Minister has failed to acknowledge the seriousness of COVID-19, placing Cambodia in a dangerous situation, one that may lead to thousands of deaths. Hun Sen has failed to “implement a public health campaign”, and develop testing sites to detect and prevent the virus.

The use of social media to spread awareness about COVID-19 is essential for people, but the Cambodian government has begun to censor social media sites. For example, Interior Minister Sar Kheng gave a warning that the government would take legal action on anyone who spread misinformation on COVID-19 on social media. The Human Rights Watch makes an interesting point: The Cambodian government’s harassment of political opposition members is only “part of a broader campaign against civil society activists and independent journalists, and ordinary people who express their views both online and offline” (Human Rights Watch, 2020). The article highlights the Cambodian government’s response towards COVID-19 and showcases underlying problems. Additionally, the article demonstrates the uncertainty with COVID-19.

After reading the article, please answer the following questions:

How is the Cambodian government censoring the right to freedom of speech?

What are the Cambodian government’s actions towards COVID-19?

How does the issue of COVID-19 highlight a broader problem in Cambodia?

Reference

Human Rights Watch. (24, March 2020). Cambodia: COVID-19 clampdown on free speech cease arrests, detention of outspoken opposition Activists, others. https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/24/cambodia-covid-19-clampdown-free-speech#

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