The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3 received over 20,000 coronavirus-related cyber threat reports in 2020
In June of 2020, an FBI official said that the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3 had received over 20,000 coronavirus-related cyber threat reports, as officials warned of growing cyber threats related to COVID-19 vaccine research. Tonya Ugoretz, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, said that the IC3 was tracking a massive spike in hackers using the Coronavirus pandemic to target Americans.
“Already, here we are in the first or second week of June, the IC3 has already had as many complaints up to this point as they did for all of 2019, and that is for all types of internet fraud,” Ugoretz said at the time. She also stated that the number of complaints attached to coronavirus-related criminal cyber activity, such as scams, malicious emails, or fraud — the FBI IC3 has received was “at least 20,000 complaints.”
This was a continuation of a trend in increasing cyberattacks during both the Coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing protests around the deaths of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks. Agencies including the World Health Organization and the Department of Health and Human Services have also been targeted, and coronavirus-related scams have even targeted federal relief funds.
In April of 2020, Ugoretz announced that the IC3 was receiving between 3,000 and 4,000 cybersecurity complaints per day, which was an increase from the typical 1,000 complaints per day the IC3 saw prior to the pandemic.
The FBI also warns that nation states are continuing to target the healthcare sector and laboratories conducting research into COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.
“We have also seen other actors, including nation states, scanning for vulnerabilities, conducting reconnaissance, conducting intrusions, and attempting to steal data from those US universities and research institutions that are really focused on trying to deliver that research in response to the pandemic,” Ugoretz said.
The US Government also warned in May of 2020 that Chinese-government backed hackers were attempting to steal coronavirus-related research from US institutions. Former Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency or CISA, Christopher Krebs, said at the time that he expected “every intelligence service” to target COVID-19 related research.
Although America, and really the rest of the world has healed and established a new normal, post coronavirus, over the past couple of years, the lingering effects of both the actual disease and the related cyber threats are sure to be with us for at least the immediate future.