According to data analyzed by the Atlas VPN research team, COVID-19-related trojan infections shoot up by 228% in Q3, 2020, compared to the previous quarter.
McAfee, a computer security company, shares their data on how many coronavirus-related trojan horse infections they detected on their users’ computers.
Malicious COVID-19 campaigns typically use pandemic-related subjects, including testing, treatments, cures, and remote-work topics to lure targets into clicking on a malicious link, downloading a file, or viewing a PDF. Panicking citizens often forget basic cybersecurity practices and fall into the trap.
Data reveals that in Q2, 2020, there were over 737 thousand coronavirus-related trojan infections globally, averaging 8 thousand per day. In the third quarter of 2020, the number jumped by 228% to a staggering 2.42 million infections, averaging 26 thousand per day.
There was a steep increase in the number of trojan infections at the beginning of July 2020. On June 30th, 2020, cybercriminals infected 11 thousand computers, while on July 1st, 2020, the number grew by 45% to nearly 16 thousand successful trojan horse attacks.
After the sharp jump, attacks continued at an increased rate the whole third quarter of 2020. On September 23rd, 2020, infections reached the highest number so far, over 35 thousand trojan infections in a single day.
A trojan horse attack is best described as a cyberattack where cybercriminals hide a malicious program in an innocent-looking email or similar source. After clicking on a link or downloading the file, the victim’s device is infected with malicious code that can execute whatever task the attacker intended.
These tasks include, but are not limited to:
- Giving the hacker access to the victim’s computer.
- Recording keyboard strokes to steal sensitive data.
- Encrypting the user’s data to extort money for the key.
The US suffered most trojan horse infections
The US has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, and interestingly, it has the most pandemic-related trojan horse infections as well. Internet users located in the US got infected with nearly 1.15 million trojans since the start of the pandemic.
Perhaps less expected, the second most affected country is Spain. Spain’s citizens fell victim to over 1.08 million attacks since the start of 2020.
Estonia, India, and South Africa all saw more than 300 thousand COVID-19-related trojan cyber attacks. Also, internet users in Italy and Germany got hit with over 200 thousand attacks each.
Furthermore, curious internauts in Ukraine, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia experienced an excess of 120 thousand attacks.
In short, it appears that the country’s population or the coronavirus case number does not directly affect how many people fall victim to trojan infections.
How to protect yourself from trojans
There are two main tips that will protect users from the majority of trojan horse attacks:
- The number one tip — make sure that you know what you are downloading. Strictly only download from reputable websites or other sources. The majority of trojans are spread via email, by impersonating well-known brand names. Always pay close attention to the email domain and if in doubt, use Google to find out more about the product or service.
- To make trojans less likely to affect your computer even if you download one, make sure to keep your operating system and other software up to date. Attackers often exploit software vulnerabilities that are only available on outdated platforms. Meaning, If your software is outdated, then the vulnerabilities might still be lingering on your computer.