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GCC Records 3,067 COVID-19 Coronavirus Cyber-Attacks in Q1 2020

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have recorded 3,067 email, URL, and file threats related to the COVID-19 coronavirus in Q1 2020, according to new research from Trend Micro Incorporated, a global leader in cybersecurity solutions.

As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread, the topic is being used in many malicious campaigns — including email spam, business email compromise (BEC), malware, ransomware, and malicious domains. Fraud activity is still on the rise as communities remain in quarantine.

During Q1 2020, the GCC recorded 1,737 email spam attacks, the 3rd-highest in Asia; 1,114 malware threats detected, the 3rd-highest in Asia; and 216 URL attacks, the 7th-highest in Asia.

The UAE led all GCC countries with 1,541 COVID-19 attacks, including 775 malware threats detected, 621 email spam attacks, and 145 URL attacks. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recorded 344 COVID-19 attacks, including 268 email spam attacks, 59 malware threats detected, and 17 URL attacks. Figures are based on cyberthreats blocked by Trend Micro.

Read: Remote working has increased the risk of a cyber breach, according to study

“While the GCC countries are bringing COVID-19 coronavirus under control from a public health standpoint, that the GCC ranks in the Top 10 in the region for COVID-19 cyber-attacks shows that organizations need to do more to tighten their cyber security solutions and processes,” said Dr Moataz Bin Ali, Vice President, Trend Micro, Middle East and North Africa.

Worldwide, Trend Micro blocked more than 907,000 spam messages, recorded more than 48,000 hits on malicious URLs, and detected 737 malware threats all related to COVID-19 coronavirus.

In threats related to COVID-19, URL attacks increased 260x and email spam attacks increased 220x from February 2020-March 2020. The United States leads in all COVID-19 attacks.

Read: Unit 42 Threat Brief- COVID-19 cyber victims

“As GCC employees adapt to new methods of working, they should be wary of cybercriminals using popular online tools, sharing software, and file attachments in their scams,” added Dr Moataz Bin Ali. “Unverified mobile apps tracking COVID-19 can also present major risks.”

Industry experts recommend a multilayered protection approach to protect all fronts and prevent users from accessing malicious domains that could deliver malware. Trend Micro solutions can detect and block malware, malicious domains, and spear phishing emails; find unknown malware using machine learning; thwart spam and email attacks; and use AI to identify email attacks.