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Coronavirus: Malware Edition

Coronavirus is the latest, greatest threat to humankind — except it isn’t. Despite the climbing numbers of infections and deaths associated with the brand-new disease, the truth is that coronavirus isn’t even close to being as destructive as the common flu. A healthy person infected by coronavirus is more likely to experience symptoms akin to a particularly nasty cold, which is to say that coronavirus offers little reason to panic.

Unfortunately, people are panicking, and it is making them susceptible to all sorts of obvious scams. Forget the coronavirus in real life; if you aren’t careful, you could contract a digital version that will make your life much, much worse. Here’s the latest information on a new malware attack on computers and mobile devices that takes advantage of people fearing coronavirus.

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The Virus

If you subscribe to email bulletins about global news, you have probably received some information about coronavirus in your inbox. Unfortunately, cyber attackers are sending out coronavirus emails of their own, but theirs are infected with a Trojan called Emotet. The subject and the body of the email might lead you to believe that it contains valuable and urgent information about coronavirus prevention. However, if you click on the email’s attachment, Emotet will secretly install itself on your device, and you will almost certainly be suffering from this digital infection for much longer than you would the real coronavirus.

Emotet isn’t a new malware. In fact, Emotet was first detected and named in 2014, when it functioned as a banking Trojan built to steal banking credentials from infected users. Over the years, Emotet has learned a few tricks; now one of the most prevalent strains of malware, Emotet primarily functions as a loader malware, which allows attackers to deploy other malware once Emotet has infiltrated a device. Worst of all, Emotet-infected devices join a large and powerful botnet, which the malware’s operators then rent out to cybercriminals for all sorts of nefarious purposes, like widespread ransomware attacks or DDoS attacks.

These Emotet-laced emails aren’t the only coronavirus-based digital threats. In fact, infosec experts say that similar types of attacks accompany most global events. Other coronavirus-related attacks have occurred on social media, usually taking the form of phishing messages. There are also other emails corrupted with different types of malware. Still, the Emotet email is the worst version yet, and you should be aware of what it is and how to stop it.

Global Spread

Currently, the worst outbreak of corrupted coronavirus emails is in Japan, which is indeed working overtime to prevent the spread of coronavirus within its borders thanks to the country’s proximity to China, the origin of the epidemic. Japan is also a fully developed nation, unlike China, so there is an overabundance of potential devices for cyber attackers to infect.

Yet, as more cases of coronavirus are diagnosed around the world, it is more than likely that these emails will start flooding international inboxes. Currently, 26 countries (including China) have identified at least one case of the virus, and these include the U.S., Australia, South Korea, Canada and several European nations. You should expect to see coronavirus-related spam emails relatively soon, and you should avoid opening on them or clicking on any links or attachments.


Emotet is a dangerous malware, and it is made even more dangerous by its association with coronavirus. Unfortunately, Emotet is incredibly sophisticated; the Trojan is capable of evading notice of many simple antivirus tools. Thus, it is imperative that you invest in the best antivirus security possible to keep you safe from the worst types of malware attack.

Fortunately, Emotet and almost all other malware is impotent if you can successfully avoid infection, and avoiding infection is relatively easy. To start, you should avoid opening spam email, which most email clients can identify and separate from your inbox. If you receive an email from an unfamiliar source, you should avoid opening it. Other clues that an email isn’t legitimate are misspellings, poor grammar and low-quality images. Ultimately, you should never click on email links or download attachments unless you fully trust the email’s sender.

Like other threatened pandemics — SARS, MERS, the Swine Flu and others — coronavirus seems incredibly intimidating now, but it is likely to pass into obscurity in a matter of weeks. However, if you manage to get your devices infected with Emotet or some other malware, you could suffer for months of even years. You should protect all your devices with top-notch security and stay vigilant for signs of attack, even after coronavirus has run its course.