Hackers are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to trick users and scam the Internet. One of the most recent threats is CovidLock, a ransomware discovered on Friday (13) by security company DomainTools that tries to attract victims by disguising itself as an application with a real-time map of Covid-19 proliferation, a disease caused by the SARS- virus. CoV-2.
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Once installed, the app hijacks your phone and requests payment in Bitcoin within 48 hours to unlock your smartphone data. A supposed key to unlock this specific malware is already circulating on the web, but the situation serves as a warning: dangers of this type should multiply in the coming days.
What is ransomware: five tips to protect yourself
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Technology companies like Apple and Google are taking steps to protect users. The iPhone maker has announced that it is adopting stricter criteria for approving coronavirus-related applications on the App Store. The owner of Android has been focusing on mediation of information, such as demonetizing YouTube videos related to the topic to avoid fake news and prioritizing government institutions and NGOs recognized in the search.
The initiatives may not be enough to completely stop the advance of coups related to Covid-19, especially in countries that have not yet experienced the worst of the pandemic, such as Brazil. Here are five precautions you can take to avoid being a victim of online scams.
Ransomware that pretends to be a coronavirus map hijacks cell phone data and asks for Bitcoin ransom – Photo: Reproduction / DomainTools
1. Download only apps from the official store
Avoiding downloading apps from alternative stores is essential to avoid malware infection. Although the cases of threats found in the Google Play Store are not uncommon, the situation of third-party websites offering APKs is much worse. The CovidLock ransomware, for example, is distributed through an application that is not in the official store.
It is also important to be aware of the protection against this type of download: if the suspicious link causes a notification asking you to change the configuration of “trusted sources” on your cell phone, do not proceed, as it may be a scam.
Download apps through official stores on iPhone and Android – Photo: Rodrigo Fernandes / dnetc
2. Prioritize information from recognized institutions
Whether exploring the cell phone store or web sites, always give preference to information disclosed by supranational entities, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), recognized NGOs, such as Doctors Without Borders, or government agencies, such as the Ministry of Health. Cheers.
For Brazilians, the Coronavirus SUS app is the most recommended for obtaining official information and guidance according to the health protocol adopted in the country to combat the epidemic. The app also allows you to perform a virtual screening to assess possible symptoms of Covid-19 and whether you need to seek medical attention.
Coronavirus application from the Ministry of Health – Photo: Rodrigo Fernandes / dnetc
3. Watch out for app permissions
In the case of downloading applications about the coronavirus, even in official stores it is necessary to always be aware of the requested permissions. It is common for this type of app to access the location of the cell phone, for example. But be suspicious if the program asks for access to files, microphone and camera, unless it is necessary for a very specific function, such as scanning objects or uploading documents. The most serious permission is administration: unless you have a lot of trust in the company that developed the app, modify this setting immediately.
4. Scan with an antivirus
For pure precaution or if you suspect an installed application, it is recommended to scan your phone with an antivirus. It is worth using Google Play Protect, as well as third-party software, such as AVG and Avast. On Samsung smartphones, it is possible to use the native security feature present in the “Device assistance” menu in the settings.
Access Google Play Protect on your Android phone – Photo: Reproduction / Barbara Mannara
5. Do not click on chain links on WhatsApp
Scams spread via WhatsApp are common in Brazil and should also take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic. Do not click on links that accompany long and current texts, unless it is possible to verify the source website. Turn on the alert signal when you see shortened links or from unknown websites and blogs.
The precaution also applies to false news: completely discard texts, audios and videos without verified authorship. When in doubt, directly access the Ministry of Health’s website and media reports, which help to clarify issues on the topic with the help of experts.