Unidentified people use the internet on laptops. COVID-19 restrictions have led to an increase in computer use.

Bavita Gopaulchan

With many individuals and companies now heavily dependent on the internet during the COVID-19 crisis, computers and other devices to mitigate the impact of social distancing, are now the targets of cyber attackers.

Executive Director of EquiGov Institute Rishi Maharaj believes cyber attackers are looking to exploit any vulnerability.

“There is definitely a major concern with regards to people working from home and dealing with their systems which don’t have the proper virus checkings or spam checkings on their computer systems that they will have at the office,” he told Guardian Media.

There are many types of cybercrimes. However, according to Maharaj, the most common type experienced in T&T is phishing scams.

“Emails will be sent to individuals or their email addresses or messages on their phones via WhatsApp and when you click on those links it then opens up a virus or malware that can come into your computer so that the person will get different information from you,” he explained.

Head of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service Cyber Crime Unit, Sergeant Daniel Hernandez, confirmed to Guardian Media that there has been an increase in reports coming to the unit during the pandemic. He was unable to say how many reports the unit has received thus far but noted that most of the reports related to phishing scams whereby users of Hotmail accounts are being sent emails indicating that their devices have been compromised because they visited x-rated sites.

There have also been incidents in which local companies are being used to carry out such attacks. The Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) is the latest company. Up until Tuesday, hackers were inviting customers to complete an online survey to win a mobile device.

Maharaj admits- at first glance- it may be difficult for anyone to identify online scams since authentic logos are used.

However, he stated persons can often identify these scams through errors in the email addresses.

He advised, “Make sure your antivirus software is up to mark… there are a lot of free ones out there right now that people can download and there are also a lot of malware checkers that you can use”.

For parents whose children are participating in online classes, he advised, “it is always important for you to supervise your children and if you can get a different child mode on your apps. I know there are a lot of apps that can convert your tablets for example into child mode so it’s a child-safe environment”.

Additionally, Sergeant Hernandez urged persons to change their passwords as often as possible as well as refrain from visiting unsecured websites. These he indicated are sites without HTTPS at the beginning of the web address.