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.

Advertisement - Article continues below

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.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

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.

Advertisement - Article continues below

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

Staying ahead of the game in the world of data

Create successful marketing campaigns by understanding your customers better

Download now

Remote working 2020: Advantages and challenges

Discover how to overcome remote working challenges

Download now

Keep your data available with snapshot technology

Synology’s solution to your data protection problem

Download now

After the lockdown - reinventing the way your business works

Your guide to ensuring business continuity, no matter the crisis

Download now
Advertisement

Recommended

Transforming training with virtual reality
Careers & training

Transforming training with virtual reality

4 Aug 2020
Scotland will launch its own contact-tracing app
Development

Scotland will launch its own contact-tracing app

3 Aug 2020
Why the coronavirus pandemic could prove fertile ground for startups
startups

Why the coronavirus pandemic could prove fertile ground for startups

23 Jul 2020
LinkedIn axes 960 jobs as recruitment demand falls
Business strategy

LinkedIn axes 960 jobs as recruitment demand falls

21 Jul 2020

Most Popular

How to find RAM speed, size and type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

3 Aug 2020
How to use Chromecast without Wi-Fi
Mobile

How to use Chromecast without Wi-Fi

4 Aug 2020
UN report points to a 350% rise in phishing websites at start of 2020
phishing

UN report points to a 350% rise in phishing websites at start of 2020

7 Aug 2020