Federal Bureau of Investigation
Albuquerque Citizens Academy
Alumni Association

Actors Take Advantage of COVID-19 Pandemic to Exploit Increased Use of Virtual Environments

April 1, 2020
Alert Number I-040120-PSA
Questions regarding this PSA should be directed to your local FBI Field Office.
Local Field Office Locations: www.fbi.gov/contact-us/fieldCyber

Actors Take Advantage of COVID-19 Pandemic to Exploit Increased Use of Virtual Environments

The FBI anticipates cyber actors will exploit increased use of virtual environments by government agencies, the private sector, private organizations, and individuals as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Computer systems and virtual environments provide essential communication services for telework and education, in addition to conducting regular business. Cyber actors exploit vulnerabilities in these systems to steal sensitive information, target individuals andbusinesses performing financial transactions, and engage in extortion.

As of March 30, 2020, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has received and reviewed more than 1,200 complaints related to COVID-19 scams. In recent weeks, cyber actors have engaged in phishing campaigns against first responders, launched DDoS attacks against government agencies, deployed ransomware at medical facilities, and created fake COVID-19 websites that quietly download malware to victim devices. Based on recent trends, the FBI assesses these same groups will target businesses and individuals working from home via telework software vulnerabilities, education technology platforms, and new Business Email Compromise schemes.

Telework Vulnerabilities

The FBI advises you to carefully consider the applications you or your organization uses for telework applications, including video conferencing software and voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) conference call systems. Telework software comprises a variety of tools that enable users to remotely access organizational applications, resources, and shared files. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a spike in businesses teleworking to communicate andshare information over the internet. With this knowledge, malicious cyber actors are looking for ways to exploit telework software vulnerabilities in order to obtain sensitive information, eavesdrop on conference calls or virtual meetings, or conduct other malicious activities. While telework software provides individuals, businesses, and academic institutions with a mechanism to work remotely, users should consider the risks associated with them and apply cyber best practices to protect critical information, safeguard user privacy, and prevent eavesdropping. Cyber actors may use any of the below means to exploit telework applications.

The FBI Albuquerque Citizens Academy Alumni Association is a nonprofit organization separate and apart from FBI.