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DOJ thwarts hundreds of websites tied to coronavirus scams, security threats

DOJ thwarts hundreds of websites tied to coronavirus scams, security threats
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The Justice Department on Wednesday said it had notified domain hosts about hundreds of websites that were attempting to exploit coronavirus concerns to scam or compromise network security.

The move came after the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received about 3,600 complaints related to COVID-19 scams, according to Department of Justice (DOJ). Many of the scams involved websites hawking coronavirus cures and vaccines or sites attempting to install malware viruses on networks.

Some of the sites were masquerading as public health organizations, such as the American Red Cross, or were trying to trick users into entering bank account details.

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Last week a senior FBI official said that the agency was receiving between 3,000 and 4,000 cybercrime complaints a day, up from an average of 1,000 per day before the pandemic.

The DOJ said Wednesday that federal agencies referred complaints to the companies that host the sites. Most have since been taken down, according to DOJ.

“The department will continue to collaborate with our law enforcement and private sector partners to combat online COVID-19 related crime,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in a statement. “We commend the responsible internet companies that are taking swift action to prevent their resources from being used to exploit this pandemic.”

The Secret Service, Food and Drug Administration and Postal Inspection Service were also involved in coordinating efforts to disrupt the malicious websites.

“Keeping pace with the growing threat of cyber-enabled COVID-19 scams requires an alliance between the private sector and our law enforcement partners to safeguard our Nation from this sort of nefarious conduct,” Secret Service Director James Murray said in a statement.

Hackers have increasingly taken advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to target hospitals, public health agencies like the World Health Organization and members of the general public working from home.

Software group Check Point reported this week that it had seen 4,000 new internet domains related to COVID-19 stimulus checks created since January, many of which make visitors susceptible to having personal information stolen.