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US Law Enforcement Takes Down COVID-19-related Online Malicious Campaigns

Silviu STAHIE

April 24, 2020

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US Law Enforcement Takes Down COVID-19-related Online Malicious Campaigns

The Department of Justice cooperated with several private companies and internet domain providers and registrars to disrupt hundreds of websites and malicious campaigns that tried to exploit the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Following a wave of complaints to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) related to COVID-19 scams, the law enforcement agencies set up an operation to identify and shut down malicious campaigns. Some of the scams targeted by law enforcement included fake vaccines and cures and fraudulent charity drives, while other spam emails were delivering infected attachments.

For example, following the announcement of a possible stimulus package for the US economy, the Internet Revenue Service (IRS) notified people about scammers copying the looks and functionality of the official website. The goal of this phishing campaign is to trick people into revealing private information.

“The FBI is proud to work alongside our federal law enforcement and private sector partners to protect the American public from COVID-19 related scams during these difficult times,” said FBI Executive Assistant Director Terry Wade. “We believe our collaborative efforts are the key to quickly reducing the threat from COVID-19 scams while allowing the American public to focus on protecting themselves and their families from this pandemic.”

Taking down a website is not so easy, even for law enforcement. It usually takes collaboration with the internet domain providers and registrars. For other spam and phishing attacks, the cooperation of cybersecurity companies is required.

The United States is the second country, after the United Kingdom, to crack down on this source of phishing and scams. The phenomenon took off in February and, by March, it increased fivefold. Since the COVID-19 pandemic is not going anywhere soon, the work against these threats will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

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