San Francisco: Google on Friday said it saw 18 million daily malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19 last week, revealing how the bad actors are working overtime to target people working from home and facing other restrictions due the pandemic.
This is in addition to more than 240 million COVID-related daily spam messages, Google said in a blog post.
Google said that it continues to block more than 99.9 per cent of spam, phishing, and malware from reaching its users as the company's machine learning models have evolved to understand and filter these threats
The phishing attacks and scams that Google is seeing daily use both fear and financial incentives to create urgency to try to prompt users to respond.
Scamsters sometimes impersonate authoritative government organisations like the World Health Organization (WHO) to solicit fraudulent donations or distribute malware.
This includes mechanisms to distribute downloadable files that can install backdoors, Google said.
"In addition to blocking these emails, we worked with the WHO to clarify the importance of an accelerated implementation of DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) and highlighted the necessity of email authentication to improve security," Gmail Security Product Manager, Neil Kumaran, and Lead Security PMM, G Suite & GCP platform Sam Lugani wrote in the blog post.
"DMARC makes it harder for bad actors to impersonate the who.int domain, thereby preventing malicious emails from reaching the recipient's inbox, while making sure legitimate communication gets through," they added.
Sometimes scamsters attempt to capitalise on government stimulus packages and imitate government institutions to phish small businesses, Google said.
Google said it has put proactive monitoring in place for COVID-19-related malware and phishing across its systems and workflows.
In many cases, these threats are not new -- rather, they are existing malware campaigns that have simply been updated to exploit the heightened attention on COVID-19, the company said.
Suggesting best practices, Google said people should avoid downloading files that they do not recognise. They can use Gmail's built-in document preview
It is also recommended to check the integrity of URLs before providing login credentials or clicking a link.
Fake URLs generally imitate real URLs and include additional words or domains, Google said.
Furthermore, in a bid to help its news partners during the COVID-19 pandemic, Google on Friday announced to waive ad serving fees for news publishers globally on its Ad Manager for five months.
Many news publishers globally use Google Ad Manager to support their digital businesses with advertising.
"As the coronavirus pandemic takes a toll on our global economy, the Google News Initiative is working to identify ways to provide immediate financial support to those news organizations around the world producing original journalism," Jason Washing, Director, Global Partnerships – News, said in a statement.
"Over the coming days, we'll notify our news partners that meet the requirements about the details of the programme, and what they can expect to see in their account statements," Washing added.
Ads that appear alongside news coverage help fund the journalists who write breaking news stories, and keep news sites and apps running.
Google has also announced a Journalism Emergency Relief Fund to deliver urgent aid to thousands of small, medium and local news publishers globally.
The funding is open to news organizations producing original news for local communities during this time of crisis, and will range from the low thousands of dollars for small hyper-local newsrooms to low tens of thousands for larger newsrooms, with variations per region.
Publishers everywhere can apply for funds via a simple application form, the last date for which is April 29.
Additionally, Google.org is giving $1 million collectively to the International Center for Journalists, which plans to provide immediate resources to support reporters globally, and the Columbia Journalism School's Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma which is helping journalists exposed to traumatic events experienced during the crisis.