Threat Spotlight: Vaccine-Related Phishing
Apps Unveiled|March 2021
Beware of phishing campaigns that use the COVID-19 vaccination as a hook.
Fleming Shi, Chief Technology Officer at Barracuda

In the same way cybercriminals have capitalized on the global pandemic with coronavirus-related phishing attacks, they are now trying to leverage the vaccine to steal money and personal information. The FBI issued a warning in December about emerging fraud schemes related to COVID-19 vaccines.

In an analysis conducted between October 2020 and January 2021, Barracuda researchers found that hackers are increasingly using vaccine-related emails in their targeted spear-phishing attacks. Right after pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Moderna announced availability of vaccines in November 2020, the number of vaccine-related spear-phishing attacks increased by 12%. By the end of January, the average number of vaccine-related spear-phishing attacks was up 26% since October.

Here’s a closer look at the latest vaccine-related phishing attacks and solutions to help detect, block, and recover from them.

Highlighted Threat

Vaccine-related phishing: Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the heightened focus on the COVID-19 vaccine to launch spear-phishing attacks. Capitalizing on fear and uncertainty, the attacks using urgency, social engineering, and other common tactics to lure victims.

Barracuda researchers identified two predominant types of spear-phishing attacks using vaccine-related themes: Brand Impersonation and Business Email Compromise.

Brand Impersonation

Vaccine-related phishing emails impersonated a well-known brand or organization and included a link to a phishing website advertising early access to vaccines, offering vaccinations in exchange for a payment, or even impersonating health care professionals requesting personal information to check eligibility for a vaccine (refer the image below).

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