How Cybercriminals May Use Desire for Coronavirus Vaccine to Steal Your Information

NBC 7 Responds looked at how cybercriminals are thriving during the pandemic

NBC Universal, Inc.

The chaos of 2020 has helped cybercriminals thrive. The coronavirus pandemic has moved our lives online, where hackers are waiting to steal personal information, and the new coronavirus vaccines will provide more targets for cyberattacks.

"Let's say vaccines meant for one country get sent to the wrong country or the wrong place," said Michael Bruemmer, Experian's vice-president for consumer protection. "People will ask if the vaccine is intact, what is going on..."

Bruemmer said hackers can spread misinformation about the vaccine, try to disrupt the supply chain and trick you into giving your personal information up in hopes of learning more about the vaccine.

"Some people might be willing to make rash or irrational decisions for vaccine access," reads the new Experian 2021 Data Breach outlook. "[It's a] target for cybercriminals who have the ability to manipulate and cause chaos through false rumors and misinformation."

Bruemmer said that, of the data breaches Experian worked on in 2020, around 36% are in the health-care sector. One reason for that might be the rise in telehealth.

"In a telehealth interaction, you don't want to share any personal information," Bruemmer said. "You really don't know the person on the other end of that Zoom call. Are they the person they say they are?"

Bruemmer said you should send personal information only through secure links before the call, just in case.

Experian's report said that in 2020, there were between 36 billion to 40 billion records compromised by hacks, scams and phishing attacks. Bruemmer said they expect to see even more attacks next year.

"You're trying to manage work from home, the Amazon driver coming to your door, or taking care of your kids," Bruemmer said. "You're multitasking. It only takes one mistake."

Bruemmer said there are some common themes in most cases of your personal information being stolen: Avoid using public wifi to shop or share important information, change your passwords often, and don't be fooled by a scammer's phone call or email.

"We're the weakest link in the chain and the cybercriminals know that," Bruemmer said. "One mistake and lots of bad things can happen."

Criminals will continue to go after your information because of how easy it is to sell.

"When they have your information, they can quickly dump it on the dark web and make a lot of money," Bruemmer said.

Outside of health care, your other information is vulnerable as well. Bruemmer said consumers also need to be careful while shopping online.

"Use a different password for every online site," Bruemmer said. "If you're shopping from home on your computer, make sure you're on a secure network. Don't use public wifi."

You should also use a credit card instead of a debit card while shopping online. Most credit card companies have more ways to help than banks do if your information is stolen.

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