Google shows web users how to fight scammers using COVID-19

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 24 2020 01:50 PM

MANILA - Google on Friday urged internet users to maximize online tools to protect themselves from fraudsters that are riding on the coronavirus pandemic.

Cyber criminals are using the COVID-19 pandemic to create "precisely crafted attacks" due to the global nature of the disease, said Mark Risher, Google's senior director for Account Security, Identity and Abuse.

"We are constantly monitoring new and emerging trends and patterns. Hackers continue changing and shifting the type of content they're going to use and the types of attacks their going to exploit," Risher said. 

"Now they know that anywhere around the planet, COVID-19 will be recognizable and will stimulate action from victims...They move from generic messages to much more targeted, much more precisely crafted attacks," he added.

There are 18 million malware and over 240 million spam attacks daily that are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic in the last week, Google said.

Risher said COVID-19 related scams include falsely representing health organizations, websites selling fraudulent products, individuals or groups posing as government sources, fraudulent financial offers and fake non-profit donation request.

Aside from automatic layers of protection, the web giant uses TensorFlow machine learning that detects phishing malware, Risher said. Google also has Google Play protect that scans apps on the Play store before downloading them.

To be safe, Google recommends taking the following steps:

• Use the security checkup tool at g.co/securitycheckup
The feature can help identify issues with devices and can tell users whether a device is compromised, Risher said.

• Use password checkup at passwords.google.com
This service will help users identify whether any of their passwords were linked, compromised or posted on the dark web, he said.

• Download the complete tip sheet from g.co/covidsecuritytips

• Use company accounts for added security that personal accounts usually don't have, Risher said.

• Use secure video conferencing apps such as Google Hangouts or Google Meet which have extra layers of security.

• Install security updates when notified

• Use password managers to create and store strong passwords

• Create child-appropriate experience at families.google.com

The "most efficient way" to protect users is the combination of what Google has been doing automatically and the guidance it offers to encourage users to make the right choices, Risher said.

There are over 2.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, according to the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. In the Philippines there are 6,981 cases with 722 recoveries and 462 deaths as of April 23, government data showed.