The National Cyber Security Centre has taken down more than 2,000 online scams linked to coronavirus in the last month including 471 fake online shops selling fraudulent items, 555 websites infected with viruses, 200 websites phishing for personal details and 832 “advance fee frauds”.
Cyber criminals are also targeting video conference apps as more people work from home, officials said.
It urged people to update their devices, install extra security measures such as two-step verification – often in the phone of codes being sent to a user’s phone – and to use a separate password for email accounts.
The NCSC, which is part of the Government’s listening post GCHQ, has also launched an online reporting service to prevent more people from callous criminals seeking to exploit the coronavirus crisis.
Intelligence chiefs say any suspect websites or emails phishing for financial details or personal information will be taken down.
NCSC Chief Executive Officer Ciaran Martin said: “Technology is helping us cope with the coronavirus crisis and will play a role helping us out of it – but that means cyber security is more important than ever.
“With greater use of technology, there are different ways attackers can harm all of us. But everyone can help to stop them by following the guidance campaign we have launched today. But even with the best security in place, some attacks will still get through.
“That’s why we have created a new national reporting service for suspicious emails – and if they link to malicious content, it will be taken down or blocked. By forwarding messages to us, you will be protecting the UK from email scams and cyber crime.”
The new programme will also give police “live time analysis of reports”, helping digital specialists to identify new trends in online crime.
Commander Karen Baxter of the City of London Police Force, said: “As we all stay indoors and spend more time online there is more opportunity for criminals to try to trick people into parting with their money.
“Law enforcement are working closely with government to ensure the public, and businesses, are as well-equipped as possible to fight online harms.
“This process will be greatly assisted by the new suspicious email reporting service which empowers the public and enhances police capabilities to step up their response to fraud.
“Officers have already executed a number of warrants across the country to target and disrupt criminals sending emails and texts designed to steal your money.”
Minister for Security James Brokenshire said: “Criminals are seeking to exploit our greater use of emails, video conferencing and other technologies for their advantage.
“It’s despicable that they are using the coronavirus outbreak as cover to try to scam and steal from people in their homes. We all have a part to play in seeing they don’t succeed.
“I encourage everyone to follow the Cyber Aware advice and to use the Suspicious Email Reporting Service. They provide important new ways in which we can protect ourselves as well as our families and businesses.”
To forward a suspect email, send it to [email protected]
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