The pandemic has fuelled a rise in NHS-themed cybercrime, The Guardian reports. Experts at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) have reported taking down more scams in the last year than in the previous three years combined. There has been a 15-fold increase in the removal of criminal online activity, compared with 2019.
The NHS was a particular target, with the distinctive blue and white branding used to lend fake authenticity to phishing emails and text messages, which are sent in an attempt to trick the recipient into giving out sensitive personal information. This could be passwords, account numbers, or social security numbers, for example.
The Covid vaccine rollout was seized on by scammers to obtain personal information for fraudulent purposes. According to the report, 43 fake NHS Covid apps hosted outside of official stores were taken down.
Dr Ian Levy, the technical director of the NCSC said: “The big increase in Covid-19-related scams, fake vaccine shops, fake PPE shops, show – to me anyway – that criminals have no bounds on what they will abuse and the fear that they engender to try and harm and defraud people.”
Despite the surge in pandemic linked fraud, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the brand most copied by cybercriminals, with more than 4,000 campaigns pulled in the past year. The gov.uk website and TV Licensing are also popular targets for fraudsters. More than 700,500 campaigns overall were taken down, the NCSC revealed.
A rising category of cybercrime is endorsement scams, which claim to be supported by celebrities such as Richard Branson or Martin Lewis, or otherwise UK newspapers. Dr Levy commented: “They’re really convincing things, they’re really well created, so it’s not surprising people fall for them.”
The NCSC held a fully virtual CyberUK event via a dedicated YouTube channel on 11-12 May, which featured a number of cybersecurity experts and question and answer sessions.
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