New cyberthreats appeared at a rate of 375 per minute in Q1

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Cyberthreats increased significantly during the beginning of the pandemic according to new research from McAfee Labs.

The security firm's threat research division saw an average of 375 new threats per minute during Q1 while cybercriminals exploited the pandemic through Covid-19 themed malicious apps, phishing campaigns, malware and more.

McAfee's new COVID-19 Threat Report: July 2020 (opens in new tab) also revealed that new PowerShell malware increased by 688 percent over the course of Q1 while the total malware grew 1,902 percent over the past four quarters. At the same time, incidents targeting the public sector, individuals, education and manufacturing also increased with nearly 47 percent of all publicly disclosed security incidents occurring in the US.

McAfee fellow and chief scientist, Raj Samani provided further insight on the report's findings in a press release (opens in new tab), saying:

“Thus far, the dominant themes of the 2020 threat landscape have been cybercriminal’s quick adaptation to exploit the pandemic and the considerable impact cyberattacks have had. What began as a trickle of phishing campaigns and the occasional malicious app quickly turned into a deluge of malicious URLs and capable threat actors leveraging the world’s thirst for more information on COVID-19 as an entry mechanism into systems across the globe.”

Exploiting the pandemic

McAfee researchers found that Covid-19 campaigns typically use pandemic-related subjects including testing, treatments, cures and remote work topics to lure users into clicking on malicious links, downloading malicious files or opening PDFs.

In order to better track these campaigns, the firm's Advanced Programs Group (APG) created a COVID-19 Threat Dashboard (opens in new tab). The dashboard includes the top threats leveraging the pandemic, the most targeted verticals and countries as well as the most utilized threat types and volume over time. Head of McAfee's APG Patrick Flynn explained how its  COVID-19 Threat Dashboard creates true analyzed intelligence, saying:

“Cybersecurity cannot be solved by cookie cutter approaches, each organization is unique and has specific intelligence requirements and objectives. The McAfee COVID-19 Threat Dashboard utilizes data to create true analyzed intelligence, which allows users to understand the total threat environment, informing them of potential threats before they are weaponized."

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.