Aug. 5 (UPI) -- The International Criminal Police Organization said in a new report that it has observed an "alarming rate" of cyberattacks targeting governments and corporations as employees and companies around the world are forced to work remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The report published by Interpol on Tuesday states that cybercriminals are shifting from targeting individuals and small businesses to major corporations, governments and infrastructure in order to maximize their potential financial gain by seeking to take advantage of increased security vulnerabilities caused by the sudden shift to teleworking.
In the four-month period of January to April, Interpol detected some 907,000 spam messages, 737 malware-related attacks and 48,000 malicious URLs, all related to COVID-19.
"Cybercriminals are developing and boosting their attacks at an alarming pace, exploiting the fear and uncertainty caused by the unstable social and economic situation created by COVID-19," Interpol Secretary-General Jurgen Stock said in a statement that accompanied the report, which was based on data from 194 member countries and private partners.
Among its member countries, 59% reported significant increases in online phishing scams, which the Federal Trade Commission describes as email or text messages sent to a target in hopes of tricking them into providing personal information to the cybercriminal.
"Seizing the pandemic as an opportunity to give their attacks a better chance of success, threat actors have revised their usual online scams and phishing schemes," the report states. "By deploying COVID-19 themed phishing emails, often impersonating government and health authorities, cybercriminals entice victims into providing their personal data and downloading malicious content."
A large portion of these attacks reported to law enforcement involved attempts to gain access to user credentials and passwords, the report said, adding that emails appearing to be sent from health ministries or the World Health Organization contained malicious attachments that exploited vulnerabilities to run malicious code.
More than 35% of member countries also reported malware and ransomware as a main cyberthreat with several reporting attacks against critical government infrastructure.
The FTC describes malware as a category of malicious cyberattacks that include viruses, spyware and other software that is installed on one's computer or electronic device without their consent that can be used to steal personal information, send spam or commit fraud.
Interpol said that in the first two weeks of April, it saw a spike in such attacks by multiple groups that have seen gone quiet, suggesting organizations have been infected with malware that has yet to be activated.
Malicious domains and misinformation were also identified as significant threats, the report said.
Interpol said that it expects "the cyberthreat landscape" to only worsen as more cybercriminals will be attracted to the vulnerabilities related the significant increase in people working from home.
Cybercrime is also increasing due to lockdowns, it said, as criminals search for new revenue streams.
To thwart the increase in attacks, Interpol recommends member states to stay up-to-date on newly identified cybercrimes, enhance police collaboration and cooperation among countries and increase cybercrime investigative capabilities, among a slew of other suggestions.
"The report's findings, again, underline the need for closer public-private sector cooperation if we are to effectively tackle the threat COVID-19 also poses to our cyberhealth," Stock said.