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COVID-19 Pandemic: Hacker Activities grew as a result of Stay-At-Home

A consequence of the public’s compliance with social distancing and quarantines during the COVID-19 pandemic is a distinctive drop in most varieties of crime. It looks like people staying home made populations less contributory to crime.

Regrettably, the news isn’t as guaranteed as those figures alone advise. Different perspectives are witnessing an escalation in crime following the stay-at-home rules. One is the household where domestic violence is anticipated to have risen in the past two months.

As researchers who investigate cybercrime, we’re observing that illegal activity appears to be increasing in cyberspace, as well. Concurrently, many people rely more massively than previously on online services for employment, recreation, and shopping.

This makes them more prone to become victims of various types of online crimes. The websites and online platforms that these internet users access become other attractive spots to motivated hackers who intend to take them over and deface them.

Website defacing starting to be a new norm in hacking

Website defacement is the online counterpart of graffiti vandalism. It happens when a hacker infiltrates a server on which a website is hosted and modifies the content of the website with pictures and text of their choice.

Unlike more advanced methods of hacking, the act of website defacement does not require hackers to have highly exceptional skills. Specific hacker typologies imply that this form of online crime can be a stepping stone to engagement in more high-level hacking and a way to gain a distinction in the hacking society.

A website of a U.K.-based canoe and kayak club was recently defaced

The infliction experienced by victims of this online crime varies from a loss of confidence in the website owner to loss of income. When business websites are taken down by hackers, they can’t process transactions. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, several retailers have been forced to change from face-to-face trade to e-commerce, which suggests that more companies will become victims of cybercrime.

Conclusions from a current study we administered based on data about website vandalism activities announced on the hacker information site Zone-h, advise that the average daily figure of website defacement attacks reported in April 2020 is 50% higher than the average daily number of attacks reported in April 2019.

Furthermore, the volume of website defacement attacks published by mid-May 2020 has exceeded the number of attacks reported in May 2019 for the whole month.

This constant rise in the number of daily website defacement attacks began in late March 2020, while January and February stayed steady.

This points us to believe that the pervasive confinement imposed by authorities worldwide has provided hackers more time to consume online, which enhanced the driving push behind this trend.

Small websites are sitting ducks

Our research on the types of websites targeted by hackers explains that large corporations and government entities are less prone to be the victims. The average daily number of complex defacements against a government agency and sizeable individual business websites has expanded from 17.75 attacks per day in February to 21.6 attacks per day in April.

Nevertheless, the recurrence of those attacks is considerably lower than the overall average daily number of website defacements described by hackers. Hackers are disproportionately targeting websites of small businesses, social clubs, and private individuals.

Website defacers prefer to attack extremely vulnerable websites because many of them are inexperienced hackers, often referred to as script kiddies.

They lack the skills required to attack high-profile targets but are motivated to gain status among their online peers.

Conclusions from our investigation advise that the number of newbie hackers who rehearse with website defacement has increased during the COVID-19 crisis. The average number of reports of defacements by first-time hackers in February was 3.41 per day. In April, the figure was 6.31 per day, a 77% increase in the name of first-time hackers.

With more numerous new hackers venturing to establish notoriety by attacking exposed websites, small business owners and individuals must guard their websites from attacks. Security strategies should include maintaining the software utilized to manage websites up to date, using robust passwords to access the servers that host the sites, limiting website users from uploading files, enabling users to connect to websites via the secure internet protocol (HTTPS) and using website security tools.

Luckily, majority of visitors of defaced websites are generally not at risk.

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