Hackers May Target Coronavirus Concerns

March 17, 2020

We all know hackers will use every chance they get to steal your personal information and compromise our corporate information assets – and the coronavirus is the latest opportunity. FirstEnergy’s security groups are watching for an uptick in attacks. In fact, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) has called for electric utilities to ensure they are prepared for potential cyberattacks attempting to take advantage of the situation.

Hackers may use “coronavirus-themed opportunistic social engineering attacks” to gain access into power companies’ networks, according to a NERC alert message. “Spear-phishing, watering hole, and other disinformation tactics are commonly used to exploit public interest in significant events.”

How to Protect Your Digital Health

Be wary of online attacks that seek to exploit concerns and take these steps to protect yourself and the company:

Watch for suspicious e-mails, especially those about “Coronavirus” or COVID-19. This includes e-mails purportedly from employers, governments, partners, and suppliers about their responses to the outbreak. Is anything about it the least bit suspicious? Before replying or clicking on any links or attachments, verify the message is authentic through a separate, trusted channel.

Report suspicious emails. Use the Spam button in Outlook. If it shows up on your mobile device, delete it.

Keep your computer and mobile device secure. Even if you’re working remotely more than normal, always follow instructions in the timely installation of security patches and software updates.

Follow network security protocols. Don’t try to circumvent cybersecurity tools such as multi-factor authentication or our network firewall. They are there to protect us.

Keep your online activities secure. When using your computer remotely, always use company-provided Virtual Private Network (VPN) software to connect to FirstEnergy’s network.

Use Microsoft Teams for online meetings. Don’t use external digital tools such as “free” remote conferencing services and other third-party applications. They may be masking a malicious actor or may not comply with our security and regulatory requirements.

Be wary of suspicious voicemails and text messages. These are other ways malicious actors can try to get sensitive information. If you don’t recognize the sender, don’t respond.

Remember These Terms?

These concepts and others are covered in the company’s anual Cyber Security Awareness online training.

Social engineering attack: Using information gained through social media interactions to manipulate you into giving up sensitive information.

Spear-phishing attack: A targeted phishing attack, which may use personal information gathered through social engineering or other means to gain your trust.

Watering hole attack: Infecting an external website with malware; when you visit the infected site, the malware is automatically downloaded into your computer. May use websites likely to be visited by employees of a targeted company.​