- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 16, 2020

A top FBI official said Thursday complaints of cybercrime made to the FBI had approximately tripled amid the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis.

Tonya Ugoretz, FBI cyber division deputy assistant director, said the number of reports submitted to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center had risen to approximately 3,000 to 4,000 complaints per day now from around 1,000 complaints per day normally.

Ms. Ugoretz said on a webinar hosted by the Aspen Institute that not all of the increasing complaints were coronavirus-related, but “a good number” was and she said the federal government was witnessing the collision of highly motivated threat actors and an increase in opportunities to attack.

“For cybercriminals, there was this brief shining moment when we hoped that gosh cybercriminals are human beings too and maybe they would think that targeting or taking advantage of this pandemic for personal profit, that might be beyond the pale,” Ms. Ugoretz said. “Sadly that has not been the case.”

Ms. Ugoretz said the FBI has already seen an increase in phishing emails from attackers purporting to represent the Treasury Department and encouraging people to click a false hyperlink to receive coronavirus-relief stimulus checks.

“In terms of where we see this going next, sadly, there’s a precedent for cybercriminals to take advantage of also natural disasters and government economic relief packages,” Ms. Ugoretz said. “So looking ahead to the massive effort to provide stimulus checks and other funding to U.S. companies and to individuals, that unfortunately is also going to be a target of fraudulent activity.”

Cybercriminals may also wish to target the technology users are relying on amid social distancing restrictions imposed by state governments nationwide. The Aspen Institute’s webinar with Ms. Ugoretz was hosted on the videoconferencing platform Zoom. On Tuesday, the Pentagon cracked down on the use of Zoom for official business because of security concerns while encouraging its workforce to telework during the coronavirus outbreak.

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