Coronavirus Used to Spread Malware Too

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Spammers are using the Coronavirus outbreak to spread malware via emails claiming to offer information on how to defend against the real-world virus, according to Bleeping Computer, which attributed the campaign to Emotet.

The strain of Coronavirus currently making its way around countries in Asia, Europe and North America was first identified in Wuhan, China and is called the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). More information about the virus (symptoms, treatment, et cetera) is available via the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.

Instances of 2019-nCoV have received plenty of media coverage--which makes it perfect for the spam emails on which Emotet relies. Well-known? Check. Scary? Check. The only way this could've been better for spammers would've been if a celebrity were involved.

Here's how it works: Spammers associated with the Emotet group use stolen emails to send messages claiming to be from Japanese health organizations. Those messages include attachments that, according to the spammers, offer information about how to avoid 2019-nCoV. Instead, they spread the group's malware.

The messages are somewhat novel because they are targeting people in Japan and, as such, are written in Japanese. But they're pretty standard otherwise. Bleeping Computer said the messages spread the Emotet malware, which uses infected systems to send these spam messages and also installs other kinds of malware.

According to the CDC, the best way to stop the spread of Coronavirus is to wash your hands, stay home if you're sick, et cetera. Common stuff, right? Well, the same is true of avoiding malware spread via emails like this (minus the hand washing). Just don't download, open or otherwise interact with attachments from senders you don't know.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.