How Can You Avoid Being a Victim of Social Engineering in COVID-19?

#LetsContinYU Series

By William Griffiths

The uncertainty, anxiety, and increase internet usage caused by COVID-19 has made it more challenging for all of us to stay safe online.

Social Engineering is where an online attacker tricks a victim into doing what the attacker wants, such as giving away their information or inadvertently downloading a malicious program or app.

“In the current COVID-19 situation, there are many coronavirus-themed scams and phishes that take advantage of our uncertainty and fear,” says Victoria Granova, Cyber Security Instructor with the York University School of Continuing Studies.

Online attackers make their phone calls, texts, messages and emails sound legitimate by using information that seems believable, such as government assistance programs or coronavirus updates.

So how can you protect yourself from these scams? What are some common red flags that can warn you an email is not legitimate?

Ask yourself these questions before responding to a questionable solicitation

  1. Is it an unexpected email or phone call?
  2. Does it use threatening or urgent language?
  3. Does it share news that’s too good to be true?
  4. Does it contain an unexpected link or attachment?
  5. Does it have an unprofessional look and tone?
  6. Are they requesting personal information?
  7. Is there inconsistent information?

…if so, don’t click the email, don’t give up your information, or hang up that call!

This infographic from the Government of Canada offers some more helpful red flags to look out for.

The Government of Canada, through the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, also has great tips on how to stay cybersafe during COVID-19.

You can also find more helpful cyber security resources by visiting the Get Cyber Safe landing page or this recent blog post about phishing campaigns.

Victoria Granova

Victoria Granova is an instructor in the School’s Certificate in Cyber Security Fundamentals program. She holds the CISSP, CISA and CPA designations and has an MBA from Queen’s University. She is currently a Senior Information Security Consultant at a “Big 5″ bank specializing in red team remediation and support. She also supports the cybersecurity community as President of the (ISC)² Toronto Chapter board, where she works to create professional education opportunities, encourages increased diversity in the field, and connects the numerous and diverse information security groups across the GTA in order to advance the industry together.

If you’d like to prepare for an exciting career helping organizations and individuals protect their digital assets, learn more about the School of Continuing Studies’ Cyber Security Certificate programs.