Microsoft said it has seen an uptick in foreign hackers attempting to steal information from think tanks and groups involved in coronavirus research, The Hill reports.
In a blog post, Corporate Vice President of Consumer Security and Trust at Microsoft Tom Burt highlighted the company’s Digital Defense Report.
He noted that cyber attackers have become more sophisticated and have started “using techniques that make them harder to spot and that threaten even the savviest targets.”
According to the report, hackers in countries like Russia are targeting non-governmental organizations, human rights groups, think tanks, colleges and universities, and coronavirus researchers.
“Microsoft observed sixteen different nation-state actors either targeting customers involved in the global COVID-19 response efforts or using the crisis in themed lures to expand their credential theft and malware delivery tactics,” Burt wrote. “These COVID-themed attacks targeted prominent governmental healthcare organizations in efforts to perform reconnaissance on their networks or people. Academic and commercial organizations involved in vaccine research were also targeted.”
Microsoft said 52% of all nation-state targeting over the past year originated from Russia, with the other half coming from China, North Korea, and Iran.
Of all the attacks, the U.S. was the target of 70% of the cyber attacks.
Burt wrote that COVID-19 fears were being exploited by hackers, with coronavirus-themed phishing emails and malware viruses skyrocketing in March. Cyber attacks were intended to trick individuals into disclosing personal account credentials, according to Microsoft.
As more people shifted to working from home amid the pandemic, the company also noted a rise in attacks on people working remotely.
Microsoft said it blocked 13 billion malicious and suspicious emails. It noted that 1 billion of the emails were attempting to steal credentials. Burt said that Microsoft’s fight to combat cyber attacks won’t be enough to stop them from happening.
“Even with all of the resources we dedicate to cybersecurity, our contribution will only be a small piece of what’s needed to address the challenge,” Burt wrote. “It requires policymakers, the business community, government agencies and, ultimately, individuals to make a real difference, and we can only have significant impact through shared information and partnerships.”
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