Cyber security in the age of COVID-19: A timeline and analysis of cyber-crime and cyber-attacks during the pandemic

Comput Secur. 2021 Jun:105:102248. doi: 10.1016/j.cose.2021.102248. Epub 2021 Mar 3.


The COVID-19 pandemic was a remarkable, unprecedented event which altered the lives of billions of citizens globally resulting in what became commonly referred to as the new-normal in terms of societal norms and the way we live and work. Aside from the extraordinary impact on society and business as a whole, the pandemic generated a set of unique cyber-crime related circumstances which also affected society and business. The increased anxiety caused by the pandemic heightened the likelihood of cyber-attacks succeeding corresponding with an increase in the number and range of cyber-attacks. This paper analyses the COVID-19 pandemic from a cyber-crime perspective and highlights the range of cyber-attacks experienced globally during the pandemic. Cyber-attacks are analysed and considered within the context of key global events to reveal the modus-operandi of cyber-attack campaigns. The analysis shows how following what appeared to be large gaps between the initial outbreak of the pandemic in China and the first COVID-19 related cyber-attack, attacks steadily became much more prevalent to the point that on some days, three or four unique cyber-attacks were being reported. The analysis proceeds to utilise the UK as a case study to demonstrate how cyber-criminals leveraged salient events and governmental announcements to carefully craft and execute cyber-crime campaigns.

Keywords: Attack timeline; COVID-19; Coronavirus; Cyber security; Cyber-attack; Cyber-crime; Home working.