MP polls: 35 bureaucrats appointed as observers get vaccinated. Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, March 8 : The number of vaccine-related phishing attacks increased by 12 per cent after pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Moderna announced the availability of vaccines in November 2020 and by the end of January 2021, the average number of attacks was up 26 per cent, said a new report on Monday.

Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the heightened fear and uncertainty prevailing around the Covid-19 vaccine to launch attacks using urgency, social engineering, and other common tactics to lure victims, found the study by researchers at cloud-enabled security solutions provider Barracuda Networks.

While most vaccine-related phishing attacks analysed by the researchers were scams, many used more targeted techniques such as brand impersonation and business email compromise.

Vaccine-related phishing emails impersonated a well-known brand or organisation 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.

Business Email Compromise (BEC), which has been one of the most damaging email threats in the past few years, costing businesses over $26 billion dollars is now being used by attackers for vaccine-related topics, said the report.

Attackers are conducting highly targeted attacks to impersonate employees needing an urgent favour while they are getting a vaccine or an HR specialist advising that the organisation has secured vaccines for their employees.

"Interestingly, vaccine-related lateral phishing attacks have been spiking around the same time when major Covid-19 vaccines are announced and approved around the world," Murali Urs, Country Manager-India, Barracuda Networks, said in a statement.

To ensure protection against vaccine-related phishing, businesses need to stay vigilant about all vaccine-related emails.

They must avoid clicking on typical links or open attachments that include offers to get the Covid-19 vaccine early, join a vaccine waiting list, and have the vaccine shipped directly to them.

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