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Dark Web Hackers Launch COVID19 Scams

Google Themed Scams Target USA Business Owners

Heartless hackers from the dark web have up their phishing scams utilizing the current coronavirus pandemic. Currently, cyber security analysts are warning about a new COVID-19 phishing scheme, with the new wave of attacks targeting American business owners.

In the USA, threat actors are targeting unsuspecting victims by exploiting Google Forms. The COVID-19-themed scams have released a large number of phishing emails to the email addresses of individuals in the United States.

According to INKY cyber security firm, its analysts have noticed that after a short break, dark web hackers have increased the Malspam phishing scam doubling its reach across the US. With an exponential increase, the malicious scams now employ Google to facilitate its COVID-19-themed phishing emails.

Reportedly, Malspam levels have doubled since the scams resurfaced in September. The Google Forms that host phishing webpages were created by the hackers to steal the private information of US business owners. The criminals were observed acting as personnel working with the Small Business Administration (SBA).

According to the researchers, the scams appeared legitimate since it was launched to mimic the COVID-19 financial recovery initiatives sponsored by the SBA. And while there is no current financial support from the SBA, the hackers could trick small business owners who have recently received help from the government’s COVID-19 financial assistance.

Fake Business Support

The threat actors scamming initiative is buoyed by the US pandemic financial support programs “Paycheck Protection Program,” “Revitalization Fund,” and “COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan”. And with the current downfall in profit, the hackers realized that they could easily lure potential victims with this latest phishing scam.

Through phishing emails, victims are encouraged to click on embedded links, which would take them to a website created with Google Forms. Those who clicked on the embedded button are being advised to apply for the small business assistance offered by the US government.

Google Forms does not need a hosting provider and are free to use, thus the hackers are busy utilizing them because of the credibility and the Google brand reputation. In addition, the encrypted data transfer by Google Forms utilizes the identical structure of the SBA authentic support programs, making it easy for applicants to provide their private and personal data.

Cyber researchers noted that once an individual clicks on the “Submit” button, all their private information is quickly transferred to the hacking group, who in return sends a comforting response to the unsuspecting victims stating “Your response has been recorded.”

Identifying Fake COVID-19 Grants

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the livelihood of many Americans and is expected to worsen as the pandemic continues to rise. Coronavirus phishing attacks on business owners are popular among hackers from the dark web.

Therefore, businesses are being warned to be vigilant, and exercise caution when messages land in their inboxes for government financial support. Cyber researchers are warning that business owners should investigate the domain URL used, as well as the sender of the financial support message.

Additionally, business owners should watch out for grammatical errors, since in most instances the hackers behind the phishing scams are from non-English speaking countries. One instance of fake emails is the glaring unprofessionalism of capitalization of the word “GRANT” throughout the email message.

Finally, the SBA warned business owners that grants are only offered from their direct website, not on the free Google Forms used by criminal hackers.

So far, Google is attempting to lessen the abuse of its forms by prompting individuals utilizing its forms not to enter their passwords or other private data on Google Forms.

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