Vaccine phishing scams rise by over 500 per cent
Vaccine-related scams have risen by 530 per cent, according to a new report by Unit 42, the Palo Alto Networks threat intelligence team.
The research looked at vaccine-lated phishing attacks between December 2020 and February 2021. During the same period, phishing attacks relating to and/or targeting pharmacies and hospitals rose by 189 per cent.
The report documents what Unit 42 has called a cyber crime “gold rush” aimed at taking advantage of COVID-19 in every way possible. It shows how cyber criminals are having great success during the pandemic as people are constantly looking for information on the virus, treatments, vaccines and the economic crisis.
To compile the research, Unit 42 generated sets of specific keywords that served as indicators for each COVID-related topic, and applied keyword-matching to determine which phishing URLs were related to each topic. This revealed that cyber criminals have been continuously evolving their tactics to adapt to the changes of the pandemic.
While the focus in early 2020 was on test kits and PPE, this has now shifted to the vaccine approval process, and most recently, immunisation clinics.
The report shows how cyber criminals have set up fake websites to steal user credentials, including a fake Pfizer and BioNTech website. The phishing page asks users to log in with their Office 365 credentials, supposedly to sign up for the vaccine.
One particular phishing website used an increasingly common technique known as “client-side cloaking” - asking users to click the "login" button to evade automated phishing detectors.
Microsoft is the brand most targeted by attackers, with fake Microsoft pages set up by attackers to steal information from employees at organisations such as Walgreens in the US, Pharmascience in Canada, and Junshi Biosciences in China.
As the vaccination rollout continues, it is predicted that phishing attacks related to vaccine distribution will continue to rise worldwide.
The report also contains recommendations for both individuals and organisations to protect themselves from phishing attacks.
Skin Analytics wins NHSX award for AI skin cancer tool
An artificial intelligence-driven tool that identifies skin cancers has received an award from NHSX, the NHS England and Department of Health and Social Care's initiative to bring technology into the UK's national health system.
NHSX has granted the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award to DERM, an AI solution that can identify 11 types of skin lesion.
Developed by Skin Analytics, DERM analyses images of skin lesions using algorithms. Within primary care, Skin Analytics will be used as an additional tool to help doctors with their decision making.
In secondary care, it enables AI telehealth hubs to support dermatologists with triage, directing patients to the right next step. This will help speed up diagnosis, and patients with benign skin lesions can be identified earlier, redirecting them away from dermatology departments that are at full capacity due to the COVID-19 backlog.
Cancer Research has called the impact of the pandemic on cancer services "devastating", with a 42% drop in the number of people starting cancer treatment after screening.
DERM is already in use at University Hospitals Birmingham and Mid and South Essex Health & Care Partnership, where it has led to a significant reduction in unnecessary referrals to hospital.
Now NHSX have granted it the Phase 4 AI in Health and Care Award, making DERM available to clinicians across the country. Overall this award makes £140 million available over four years to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence technologies which meet the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Dr Lucy Thomas, Consultant Dermatologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said: “Skin Analytics’ receipt of this award is great news for the NHS and dermatology departments. It will allow us to gather real-world data to demonstrate the benefits of AI on patient pathways and workforce challenges.
"Like many services, dermatology has severe backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award couldn't have come at a better time to aid recovery and give us more time with the patients most in need of our help.”