German government loses 'tens of millions' in COVID-19 phishing attack

Hackers impersonated NRW's website for distributing emergency coronavirus funding

Phishing

Update: The NRW's Ministry of Economic Affairs website is now back online, enabling the self-employed and small business owners to once again apply for Coronavirus emergency aid. The NRW police say that, so far, there have been no known cases of hackers successfully managing to siphon funds. 

The government of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) in western Germany has reportedly lost tens of millions of Euros after hackers impersonated its website for distributing emergency coronavirus funding.

Hackers not only set up a website impersonating the legitimate NRW Ministry of Economic Affairs website but also used the personal details provided by users to file requests and collect funds on their behalf.

The blame has been attributed to NRW officials who had failed to set up a secure method of distributing funds. As opposed to other German states, which have asked users to download a form and mail it or to upload scanned documents in order to verify their identity, NRW only required local applicants to fill out an online form.

This allowed cybercriminals to impersonate applicants who had provided their personal details to the unofficial website and file requests for government aid, replacing only the bank account where funds were to be wired.

The scheme lasted for nearly a month, from mid-March until 9 April, when the NRW government finally took down the website and suspended payments.

However, the damage had already been done. German tech news site Heise reported that prior to the website being taken down, the local police had received 576 official reports of fraud related to the scam.

The situation in NRW is the latest example of hackers using coronavirus-related content in order to reap benefits from the outbreak and subsequent lockdown.

Related Resource

2020 report: The threat posed by shadow IoT devices

Unsanctioned IoT devices open a portal for chaos across the network

Download now

Last week, Google issued a warning to users working from home during the lockdown about a rise in the number of coronavirus-based phishing attacks, many of which are being sent as emails. The company stated almost two in five phishing attempts over Gmail were now related to COVID-19.

According to the BBC, about £2 million has been lost to coronavirus-related fraud in the UK. Earlier this month, both US and UK cybersecurity officials warned that hackers, some of them potentially state-backed, were using the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic to exploit businesses and the wider public.

Featured Resources

Preparing for AI-enabled cyber attacks

MIT technology review insights

Download now

Cloud storage performance analysis

Storage performance and value of the IONOS cloud Compute Engine

Download now

The Forrester Wave: Top security analytics platforms

The 11 providers that matter most and how they stack up

Download now

Harness data to reinvent your organisation

Build a data strategy for the next wave of cloud innovation

Download now

Recommended

US government renews COVID-19 vaccine distribution agreement with Palantir
platform as a service (PaaS)

US government renews COVID-19 vaccine distribution agreement with Palantir

26 Jul 2021
How LSE is using digital technology to shape the future of higher education
digital transformation

How LSE is using digital technology to shape the future of higher education

15 Jun 2021
Smart devices more than doubled in US homes amid COVID pandemic
Mobile Phones

Smart devices more than doubled in US homes amid COVID pandemic

9 Jun 2021
How to manage people successfully from a distance
Business strategy

How to manage people successfully from a distance

9 Jun 2021

Most Popular

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G review: A rose-tinted experience
Mobile Phones

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G review: A rose-tinted experience

14 Jul 2021
RMIT to be first Australian university to implement AWS supercomputing facility
high-performance computing (HPC)

RMIT to be first Australian university to implement AWS supercomputing facility

28 Jul 2021
Zyxel USG Flex 200 review: A timely and effective solution
Security

Zyxel USG Flex 200 review: A timely and effective solution

28 Jul 2021