FixMeStick’s Weekly Cybersecurity Round-Up: March 9th-16th

Hey there FixMeFans and StartMeStars! We hope you’ve all been staying safe amidst the recent coronavirus outbreak. During times like these, we recommend exercising heightened caution when it comes to your sanitation – wash your hands regularly, and avoid going into public places unless necessary. For those of you who are working from home (like our team in Montreal!) for the time being, we’ve compiled a small list on how you can do so safely.

This week for the weekly round-up we’ve got a lot of news concerning how the coronavirus has been impacting your security and safety online, as well as some news regarding Russian trolls (the internet kind), and how Google can actually place you at the scene of a crime.

Due to the pandemic, fear and panic have been a bit higher than usual – no surprise. While people have been concerned about staying healthy, hackers have been exploiting this concern to launch several attacks on individuals – and now the government. 

Similar to the bogus coronavirus emails you’ve been receiving over the past few months – members of both China’s and India’s government have been subject to potential hacks through specially crafted coronavirus emails containing malicious Microsoft word documents. Because these emails typically contain coronavirus or Covid-19 subject fields, they easily bypass security nets.

By opening the attachments, individuals would expose their computers to different types of malware, potentially allowing hackers to gain access to sensitive information. While this can be unnerving for anybody, it’s proving to be an even more serious matter for different governments, as China’s government files have been hacked, and so too have India’s.

With everything going on lately, the last thing you need to worry about is being hacked. Don’t trust random coronavirus emails, don’t open any attachments or follow any links – as you can still find all your information from trusted and reputable sites!

And even while people are worried about catching the virus, it seems like certain governments are taking some extra precautions to reduce the spread – at the cost of privacy. While some countries are deploying drones to ensure that their residents stay inside, other countries are tracking people’s phones to minimize the spread.

Currently Israel, Iran, and China are tracking the phones of their patients, using the information to compile a database of when and where individuals are. These measures can prove to be useful in isolating the disease, however it raises the question as to how important our privacy is during these times.

You can read more information about the situation here.

In other non-coronavirus related news, you’ll be happy to know that Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), known for their role in meddling in the US election, is now outsourcing its efforts to various locations in Africa.

The IRA were initially known for their troll-like Facebook and Twitter postings, which were intended to spread misinformation. Though the IRA has since been banned from social media, but have now relocated their activities to areas in Ghana and Nigeria and have been posting under the name Eliminating Barriers for the Liberation of Africa (EBLA).

While many social media sites are actively patrolling the postings to make sure there is no spread of misinformation, it is still important to make sure the post you’re reading is from a verified source, rather than something generated to deceive the public. 

Here are useful tips for verifying if a post you’re reading is legitimate or not!

Recently, a cyclist in Florida was linked to a burglary he didn’t commit, simply because his Google data had indicated that he was in the area during the time the crime was committed.

In January, cyclist Zachary McCoy had received an email from Google indicating that local police wanted information regarding his account. According to Google’s data, he was in the area of a recent burglary, and was actually considered the prime suspect.

Using what is called a geofence warrant, police were able to track his phone to the scene of the crime, which happened to be on McCoy’s bike ride to work. While police cannot assess a user’s identity through this search, they can find out other details and then turn to Google for further answers. 

Although McCoy was able to prove his innocence, the entire situation raises a lot of questions regarding our own security and privacy. 

You can read up on the whole situation here.

That’s all for this week! We hope that you’re all staying safe with all that’s going on currently. Be sure to exercise extra caution, and hey, maybe with this extra time at home you can even try running the FixMeStick to stay on top of all the viruses coming your way.