US Seizes Domains Used For COVID-19 Vaccine Phishing Attacks
The US Department of Justice has seized two domain names used to impersonate the official websites of biotechnology companies Moderna and Regeneron involved in the development of COVID-19 vaccines.
While almost perfectly cloning the contents of the real sites, the website seized by the federal government were instead used for various malicious purposes including running scams, infecting visitors with malware, and collecting sensitive info in phishing attacks.
“Individuals visiting those sites now will see a message that the site has been seized by the federal government and be redirected to another site for additional information,” the Justice Department said in a Friday statement.
“I urge citizens to remain vigilant,” United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur added after the domain seizure.
“Don’t provide personal information or click on websites or links contained in unsolicited e-mails. Don’t become a victim.”
Used for harvesting personal information
The investigation surrounding the two domains — mordernatx[.]com and regeneronmedicals[.]com — was prompted by a report coming from Moderna’s cybersecurity team and by an ongoing investigation on malicious websites.
In both cases, visitors who wanted to reach the “Contact Us” pages on the now shut down sites were instead redirected to a form that either requested sensitive information including name, company / institution, title, phone number, and e-mail address or asked to reach out via a Voice over IP (VOIP) number.
The mordernatx[.]com domain was registered through a company from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on December 8, and regeneronmedicals[.]com on December 6 by an individual from Onitsha Anambra, Nigeria.
“By seizing these sites, the government has prevented third parties from acquiring the names and using them to commit additional crimes, as well as prevented third parties from continuing to access the sites in their present form,” the DoJ added.
“These individuals took advantage of fear during the global pandemic and attempted to steal personal information for nefarious purposes,” said Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent John Eisert said.
Roughly $211 million lost to COVID-19 related fraud
Over 275,000 Americans have reported financial losses of more than $211 million following COVID-19-related scams since the start of this year according to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
For instance, vaccine research organizations from Canada, UK, and the US have been targeted throughout the year by the Russian state-sponsored APT29 hacking group with the end goal of harvesting intellectual property related to the vaccine’s development and testing.
Threat actors affiliated with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have also been involved in similar attacks according to a joint public service announcement issued by the FBI and DHS-CISA.
Last but not least, Microsoft has also taken down domains used in COVID-19-related cybercrime such as harvesting sensitive information, later to be used in Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks.