The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have issued separate alerts to warn the public against fraudulent messages and mails aimed at defrauding people using the global outbreak of the Covid-19 virus, also called coronavirus as the bait.
This is sequel to reports that cyber criminals and internet fraudsters are targeting unsuspected individuals with deceitfully messages on the outbreak aimed at obtaining sensitive information to hack their accounts.
In its alert, the WHO disclosed that “criminals are disguising themselves as WHO to steal money or sensitive information” and has warned those contacted to by a person or organisation that appears to be from WHO, verify their authenticity before responding.
Similarly, the Nigerian office of UNICEF issued an alert on March 4 to caution the public against the activities of cyber criminals who are taking advantage of the current outbreak to defraud people.
In the message signed by its Communication Specialist, Blessing Ejiofor, UNICEF said, it “has become aware of messages being circulated that are being falsely attributed to the organization,” stressing that all genuine information can be found on its website, www.unicef.org,
Giving details about the malicious emails appearing to be from WHO, the health body stated on its wenbsite that, “WHO is aware of suspicious email messages attempting to take advantage of the 2019 novel coronavirus emergency. This fraudulent action is called phishing.”
Some of the requests contained in these “Phishing” emails that appear to be from WHO include request for recipients to give sensitive information, such as usernames or passwords, click a malicious link and open a malicious attachment, through which the criminals can install malware or steal sensitive information.
Consequently the WHO has given a six-steps guideline on how to prevent phishing. These include Verification of the sender by checking their email address. According to WHO, a typical WHO email address is ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’, adding that any email that has anything other than ‘who.int’ after the ‘@’ symbol is not from WHO.
“WHO does not send email from addresses ending in ‘@who.com’, ‘@who.org’ or ‘@who-safety.org’,” the alert noted.
It also urged the public to always check the link before they click, making sure that itb starts with ‘https://www.who.int’ or better still, navigate to the WHO website directly, by typing ‘https://www.who.int’ on the browser.
The WHO has also asked the public to be careful when providing personal information, being careful to know why someone wants their information and if it is appropriate. It, however, added that there is no reason someone would need your username and password to access public information.
The public has also been warned not rush or feel under pressure, as cybercriminals use emergencies such as 2019-nCov to get people to make decisions quickly. “Always take time to think about a request for your personal information, and whether the request is appropriate,” the WHO alert stated.
Meanwhile, the agency has said people who have given sensitive information should not panic, requesting that they should immediately change their username or passwords, as well as the credentials on each site where they have used them.
The WHO has said it will never ask anyone to login to view safety information; never email attachments not requested for; never ask anyone to visit a link outside of www.who.int nor charge money to apply for a job, register for a conference, or reserve a hotel.
It says it will also never conduct lotteries or offer prizes, grants, certificates or funding through email, nor ask anyone to donate directly to emergency response plans or funding appeals.
“Beware that criminals use email, websites, phone calls, text messages, and even fax messages for their scams. You can verify if communication is legit by contacting WHO directly,”
UNICEF Nigeria has said it is collaborating with WHO to support the Nigerian government’s response to the outbreak.