Coronavirus-related cyberattacks surge in Brazil

There has been a 124% increase in phishing attacks in March as a result of WhatsApp messages with content relating to the pandemic.

Phishing attacks against mobile devices have more than doubled in the last month in Brazil as the coronavirus pandemic hits the Latin country, according to a new study by Kaspersky.

During the months of February and March, the cybersecurity company detected an increase of 124% in this type of scam. According to the study, this growth in cyberattacks is directly related to a surge in malicious messages sent through WhatsApp taking advantage of the Covid-19 situation.

Kaspersky noted that many cybercriminals are sending messages aimed at stealing the user's personal data to use in other attacks, or making victims download legitimate apps, so that attackers can get paid by affiliation programs.

"Cybercriminals adapt their scams daily and send very convincing messages," said Fabio Assolini, senior security analyst Kaspersky in Brazil.

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According to the security expert, Kaspersky saw malicious messages circulation on WhatsApp on the same day the Brazilian government announced emergency aid for vulnerable citizens. "[Cybercriminals] take advantage of the public's anxiety," he noted.

The sudden adoption of remote work in recent weeks has seen increased action of cybercriminals, Assolini pointed out, adding that this is a risk that can have serious implications to companies:

"In addition to the direct consequences for the victim, an incident can put a company's entire infrastructure at risk if the device is connected to the corporate network - something that is extremely common in this moment of pandemic and self-isolation at home", he warned.

WhatsApp is present in 99% of all smartphones in the country, according to the study into messaging in Brazil, carried out in February 2020 by Opinion Box and Mobile Time and commissioned by communication services firm Infobip.

Brazilians appear to have a high level of trust in the messaging app: according to the Mobile Time survey, 61% of users want to use it to make payments and transfer money. Of these, 47% would like a virtual bank account created within WhatsApp to manage cash, while 30% would still prefer to transfer money from their traditional bank accounts and 23% would use a credit card.