Cybercriminals take advantage of COVID-19

​By Bank Windhoek's Manager of Forensic Services, Johnny Truter

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause global fear, cybercriminals are taking advantage of this distress by trying to trick organisations and individuals into clicking on links, opening malicious attachments, or coercing them to divulge private information by telephone. Cybercriminals now use tactics such as emails, attachments, social media, and text messages related to COVID-19 to scare people into adhering to their demands.

Currently, the ransomware appears to be spreading primarily via emails - often falsely claiming to contain vital information regarding COVID-19 from a government agency, which encourages the recipient to click on an infected link or download an attachment.

The International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL), a global organisation that facilitates worldwide police cooperation and crime control, has noticed that cybercriminals have begun targeting hospitals and other institutions on the front lines of the fight against the COVID-19. These criminals are mainly using tactics like ransomware attacks, which locks hospitals and other institutions out of their systems in an attempt to extort payments.

Happening in Namibia 

In March 2020, the European Commission warned that cybercrime in Europe had already increased as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Industry experts have indicated that cybercrime, including payment frauds which are relevant to Bank Windhoek like card payments, EasyWallet transfers, and Proof-Of-Payment scams, is expected to increase. With the world in lockdown and millions working from home, there is now the increased risk that opportunistic criminals may find it easier to access enterprise systems and databases. The reason is that organisational cybersecurity may have become less secure to allow access to employees working from home. The same situation is now happening in Namibia.

In response to this growing danger, Bank Windhoek has put various security measures in place and continues to encourage its staff and customers to remain vigilant during these unprecedented times.

Bank Windhoek customers have already reported several calls by fraudsters using COVID-19 as a way to frighten them into providing account and card numbers, followed with a request for the Personal Identification Number (PIN) to protect the customer from deceitful card transactions.

Below are some tips for self-protection:

  • Only open emails or download software/applications from trusted sources.
  • Never share your PIN with anyone.
  • Do not click on links or unknown attachments in emails from an unknown sender.
  • Secure email systems to protect from spam which could be infected.
  • Backup all critical files frequently, and store them independently from your system.
  • Have the latest anti-virus software installed on all systems and mobile devices.
  • Use strong passwords for all systems and update them regularly.
  • Keep track of your financial transactions.
  • Use encryption as far as possible during the transmission of sensitive information.

Also be alert of email subject matters such as:

  • Check an updated Coronavirus map in your city.
  • World Health Organisation emails or social media Coronavirus messaging.
  • Keeping your children safe from Coronavirus
  • A request to raise funds for "victims."

It is important to use Bank Windhoek's AlertMe service notification, which notifies you whenever transactions take place on your accounts, be it debit or credit transactions. The free service sends Short Message Services (SMS) to alert you to purchases made with Bank Windhoek's debit and credit cards, as well as login and payments on Internet Banking (iBank) transactions. Transactions done via Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs), Point-of-Sale (POS) device, or website that accepts cards, also generate alerts.

Remember, Bank Windhoek will never send an email to update your details and will never include a link to do so. Also, the Bank will not call you to ask for your banking details.

If you are a victim of a scam or suspect that you are a target in any fraud, please contact the Bank Windhoek Customer Contact Centre at Tel 061 299 1200 or your Branch immediately.


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