March 6, 2020
It probably won't come as any surprise, but registrations of coronavirus related domain names have picked up substantially over the last couple of months.
Major events with negative impacts that attract significant public attention also attract unsavoury characters looking to make a buck or wreak further havoc, and the situation with coronavirus COVID-19 is no different.
Verisign's DomainScope tool shows very little happening with new domain name registrations containing the keyword "virus" up until the 19th of January this year, then registrations picked up significantly. Activity tapered off a bit after January 31 until February 21 when it spiked again - this time higher than before.
Some of these domain names will of course be utilised with legitimate websites. However, there will be some used to spread misinformation, to scam worried people out of their hard-earned cash with fake cures and grossly over-priced protective products of questionable efficacy, and some to spread a different sort of virus - one that infects victims' computers.
If you're receiving emails or sent links to sites purportedly offering information or products in relation to coronavirus - proceed with caution. The most reliable sources of information will (in most cases) be your country's department of health or the World Health Organisation. WHO might be a little behind the eight-ball in conveying some information - and that's because it needs to ensure that what it reports is accurate and what it advises is according to the best knowledge available at the time.
But you also need to ensure you're on the real WHO web site.
The World Health Organisation is also a victim of coronavirus related scams, with the organisation reporting suspicious email messages claiming to be from WHO circulating and encouraging recipients to open attachments or click on links that then result in phishing or malware installation attempts.
Always bear in mind while the internet is a wonderful medium for spreading important information fast, it's also a very effective vehicle for misinformation. This quote from the 1700's when the internet couldn't have even been envisioned still very much applies in the high-tech world of today:
"Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it."
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