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Targeted email attacks on pace to set new record in 2020

  • October 2, 2020
  • , Nikkei , p. 42
  • JMH Translation

The number of “targeted email attacks,” emails with viruses that target confidential information of companies and research institutions, is on pace to reach a record high in 2020. The National Police Agency has confirmed 3,978 cases of such attacks between January and June 2020, a 48% increase from the same period in 2019. The number of attacks is on pace to exceed the record number of 6,740 cases in 2018. 


A majority of targeted emails are “distributed” attacks in which the same text and virus are sent to unpublicized individual email addresses in over 10 organizations. In terms of file format, Word attachments that contain a virus have increased from 10 to 60% compared with the same period in 2019. Attachments of compressed files decreased from 80 to 30%.


Many of the malware noted were a type called Emotet, in which the virus in a Word attachment causes an infected terminal to send a fake email to others in a chain reaction.


There were 608 cases of suspected fraud or emails that took advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak. Over half were cases of fraud in which people did not receive the masks they purchased online. There were 115 reports of suspicious emails or websites that prompted people to apply for the government’s cash handout through the URL listed.


There were 885 cases of illicit remittances using internet banking, up 4.8 times from the same period in 2019. The damages from such remittances totaled 512 million yen, a three-fold increase from 2019.


Between June and July 2020, there were 32 cases where a bank app was used to withdraw cash from an ATM. A total of 10.6 million yen in damages was confirmed. Seven Bank and some regional banks were among those affected, according to persons concerned.

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