Why Covid-19 Phishing Criminals Love Machine Learning (Ml)

April 9, 2020
Steve Fox

Millions of employees working from home—combined with enterprise security policies that over-rely on machine learning (ML)—are creating a recipe for disaster. Google reported 18 million COVID-19 related malware and phishing emails just last week alone and we’ve seen a 350 percent increase since the beginning of the year. New phishing scams, ransomware, and malware threats are being reported in record numbers, in every country, and in nearly every language. It’s open season for cybercriminals who are preying on fears of the coronavirus pandemic.


ML has been integrated in to nearly every industry and aspect of modern life, from self-driving cars to smart thermostats; however, it has also become a valuable tool in an organization’s information security arsenal. Attackers use ML to exploit applications and carry-out evasive, poisoning, and privacy attacks. Defense systems that learn how to proactively mitigate security threats in real-time are crucial in helping to to prevent breaches. However, a new threat has emerged where trojans and bots are appending text from news stories to bypass security software cryptors and successfully deliver malware.

ML is generally perceived by industry experts as both: a) an opportunity to innovate and b) a growing vulnerability in the cyber threatscape. For instance, security programs that can learn autonomously do equip organizations with the ability to identify and react to potential threats at a greater speed than humanly possible. However, this functionality is available to everyone—not just the good guys—and where there’s a will, there’s a way. So how do you harness the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and ML to protect your organization from cyber attackers who are using the same technology?


Although attackers have used ML to get around basic protective measures, businesses large and small should continue using ML to detect threatening activity. However, the key to a strong security posture involves taking multiple precautions:

  1. Cybersecurity professionals have formed a COVID-19 Cyber Threat Coalition (CTC) designed to share intelligence and counter malicious attempts. Visit the CTC here and help you’re able to.
  2. At bare minimum, security professionals need to ensure all business leaders and employees are educated. Visit the CTCs website on how to stay safe online with everyone you can.

Click here to download and share our COVID-19 Security Procedures for remote employees to ensure best practices are being followed to securely work from home.

Lastly, with millions of new remote workers, it’s now more important than ever to engage a front line industry expert. Information is changing rapidly and new threats are constantly emerging. Organizations need to glean new insights that provide a big picture view of their security posture—and vulnerabilities—as well as the micro-level attack attempts that might otherwise go unnoticed.

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