GlobalData’s comments come as the firm noted that “the presence of the novel coronavirus has been confirmed in the UK for the first time as the UK’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, confirmed that two people from the same family had tested positive for coronavirus”.
GlobalData technical editor Lucy Ingham said: “Perhaps a more sinister threat than coronavirus itself is a malware that is already being spread in other parts of the world, by heartless criminals using fear surrounding the disease.
“In Japan, where the first case was confirmed on 15 January, emails have begun circulating that appear to be warnings about the coronavirus outbreak from an official government body,” said Ingham.
“The emails themselves have a word document as an attachment, with an urgent-sounding name that encourages the recipient to open it. However, when they do, they see a message that looks like it is from Office 365 encouraging the user to change their settings so the document is not in protected view.
“Doing this does not provide any new information about coronavirus or anything else, but it does launch an extremely malicious malware known as Emotet, which is designed to steal financial data, banking logins and other valuable personal information.
“Emotet has been around for some while, and it is becoming increasingly common for attackers to use current news events to lure victims into allowing it to install.”
Mollie MacDougall, threat intelligence manager at Cofense, says: “After a brief recess around Christmas and New Year, Emotet is very much back as the behemoth of email malware.”