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Coronavirus fears exploited to spread malware

They contain word documents which, when opened, bring up an Emotet Office 365 document template.

February 01, 2020 / 05:33 PM IST

After almost 10,000 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in the world with 213 total deaths, the World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency of international concern. Recent reports suggest that cybercriminals are using the fear of this virus to spread malware via emails.

Spammers associated with the Emotet group have been sending emails to Japanese targets as per Bleeping Computer. These messages look like official notifications from public health centres and welfare service providers and are given fake authenticity via stolen emails.

The emails claim to offer advice on protection against the Coronavirus. They contain word documents which, when opened, bring up an Emotet Office 365 document template. If the victim chooses to “enable content” to view everything, the computer is immediately infected. It not only sends malicious spam to other targets but its secondary payload also allows attackers to “harvest user credentials, browser history, and sensitive documents that will be packed and sent to attacker-controlled storage servers.”

This is one among many other attacks that the Emotet gang has executed using subjects of international attention. Recently, it sent out malicious emails that invited people to join Greta Thunberg at a climate change protest.

The Coronavirus originated in the Wuhan district in China and has spread across the world in a short span of time.

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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first published: Feb 1, 2020 05:33 pm

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