Women of Email

COVID-19 used in spam, malicious attacks targeting consumers

24 Nov 2020 7:27 AM | Jennifer Cannon (Administrator)

As early as April 2020, Google reportedly blocked nearly 18 million phishing emails. Nearly four million coronavirus and COVID-19 emails containing harmful content have been delivered— with just over one million clicks on malicious URLs occurring in these emails. You, your coworkers, your families and friends are all susceptible to falling victim to email-related scams. As email marketers, we should feel obligated to play a key role in communicating the warning signals to our subscribers. 

With individuals becoming increasingly more dependent on technology — including email — than ever before, it should come as no surprise that malicious emails are reaching inboxes at unprecedented rates. Parents (and even college students), constantly checking emails for updates on their school districts’ changing policies, are particularly susceptible to these attacks, according to TechRepublic. 

Malicious content trends. Initially, phishing emails containing the name of the virus were identified by cybersecurity firms monitoring corporate email servers. Emails containing stock market information were also popular in the early days of the pandemic, and when unemployment numbers skyrocketed, malicious senders leveraged phishing tactics by emailing fake job opportunities. 

In mid-October, one cybersecurity firm discovered bad actors were sending fake COVID-19 surveys to university staff. The emails contain a Word document that reportedly contained ransomware that allowed malicious senders to steal encrypted files from their victims in an extortion attempt. 

Increasing spam tactics. As cybersecurity experts work with both email marketers and their recipients (subscribers), they create numerous ways to block spam from ever reaching the anticipated end-user. But while these experts grow smarter, so do their counterparts on the hacker-side. It can sometimes be difficult to tell who is truly one step ahead of these bad actors, and some of the biggest firms devote tens of millions of dollars to keep them out of their business systems.

Ransomware, malware and phishing. These are likely the most popular types of email attacks that your subscribers are seeing. Ensuring your subscribers that they can be 100%  positive an email that says it is from you really is from your brand.

The “why me?” factor. Many people and organizations struggle to grasp why a cyber attacker would want to target them or their business’s emails. The bad actors who are coordinating these types of events are likely not targeting you or your brand directly — they target as many inboxes as possible. Once an end-user clicks the malicious link, they’ve unknowingly let the bad guys into the system or downloaded malicious content that will allow them to carry out their attack. In other words, it’s nothing personal.

It is terribly unfortunate that people are using scare tactics related to coronavirus and COVID-19. As email marketers, we must ensure we drive crystal-clear, well-aligned information campaigns to our stakeholders, subscribers and customers.

As an email marketer, it is critical responsibility to be part of educating your colleagues (and let's face it, our families too!).

Do you have an email marketing related story — COVID-related or not — feel free to reach out to me with your story ideas or to qualify as a contributor. 

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