BE AWARE

Hackers on prowl, Microsoft put users on high alert

They are e doing email attachments that holds Excel 4.0 macros deemed to be malicious

In Summary
  • In April, Google claimed that it was blocking over 240 million Covid-themed spam messages each day
  • n February, Kenya was named top among countries in Africa most concerned about cybercrime.
Security experts have uncovered a new scam that uses recipients’ real passwords as leverage to demand a Bitcoin ransom./COURTESY
Security experts have uncovered a new scam that uses recipients’ real passwords as leverage to demand a Bitcoin ransom./COURTESY

Please don’t open any email titled ‘WHO Covid-19 Report, purportedly from John Hopkins, Microsoft has warned.

In a statement, the tech stable said it has established that hackers are in a new COVID-19 phishing campaign using malicious Excel macros to achieve remote access of victims’ machines via a legitimate support tool.

According to Microsoft, hackers are doing this by sending an email attachment that holds Excel 4.0 macros deemed to be malicious.

''Through opening the Excel file NetSupport Manager—the remote access tool—is downloaded onto the PC and allows hackers to have access to and run them,’’ Microsoft said.

It added that hundreds of unique Excel files in this campaign use highly obfuscated formulas, but all of them connect to the same URL to download the payload.

The campaign is similar to many others that have been launched in recent days, with cyber-criminals riding on existing content with COVID-19 themes to increase success rates.

In April, Google claimed that it was blocking over 240 million Covid-themed spam messages each day, and 18 million malware and phishing emails, illustrating the scale of cybersecurity attacks pegged on widespread public awareness of and appetite for information about the pandemic.

Microsoft’s warning is coming on the backdrop of a recent Cyber Security Breaches Survey by Deloitte, which indicated that 86 per cent of businesses have encountered phishing emails in the past six months, up from 72 per cent in 2017.

In February, Kenya was named top among countries in Africa most concerned about cybercrime.

According to the report by experimental firm KnowBe4, of all the 26 countries surveyed, Kenyans (75 per cent) and South Africans (74 per cent) were most concerned about the risk of cybercrime, yet respondents were comfortable giving away personal information as long as they understood what it was being used for.

It added that that 53 per cent of Africans surveyed think that trusting emails from people they know is good enough; 28 per cent have fallen for a phishing email and 50 per cent have had a malware infection; 64 per cent have no idea about ransomware while 52 per cent don’t know what multi-factor authentication is.

The report ranked phishing as the most popular cybersecurity attack on the continent at 70 per cent.

Speaking to the Star on phone Tuesday, Cyber Security expert Patrick Milimu said the working from home ‘new normal’ is likely to expose firms to more cyber attacks as employees who he refers to as weak points are more vulnerable than before.

He said hackers are now on scam email drives to try entering companies’ backbends via employees’ emails.

''Just one person falling victim can be enough to provide hackers with the much-needed link to gain access to the whole corporate network and the confidential information stored within,’’ Milimu said.