Cybercriminals are targeting staff ordered to work from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with convincing phishing emails that reference the victim’s workplace.

The email’s subject line, a malicious link, and a sign-off signature include the domain found in the intended victim’s email address – for example, the ‘Telstra’ in our own email addresses.

The URLs, however, are just a mirage. When opened, they launch a different URL loading a page that resembles a Microsoft Office 365 login screen. Any usernames and passwords typed into this fake Office 365 login screen will be captured by the scammer.

Cybercriminals may sell those logins to other hackers or use them in a bid to access email, documents, and other data.

It is important to note that phishing emails rapidly change their contents (known as pretext), URLs, and sending addresses to avoid detection and blocking.

Therefore, this phishing example should be considered a current attack that may slightly or significantly change in the coming days or weeks.

We have been working hard with the Federal Government’s Australian Cyber Security Centre to block new malicious domains as they surface to protect customers across mobile and broadband services.

Look out for COVID-19 scams online

Cybercriminals are increasingly capitalising on the COVID-19 outbreak to make their phishing attacks more attractive. Attacks have occurred over email and SMS, and included dangerous malware embedded in Word documents.

Yet regular phishing emails faking missed packages, tax bills, and account recovery remain more numerous and successful. Telstra Cyber Security has observed those attacks snagging tens of thousands of victims from government, enterprise, and small businesses, and across all sectors and countries.

Anyone who fills out their logins on the malicious page should immediately alert their cyber security or IT teams, and change their Office passwords.

Multi-factor (or two-factor) authentication should also be enabled wherever possible. This defence requires a code, often generated in an app or sent via email, to be entered along with the usual username and password.

Consumers can use multi-factor authentication for Microsoft and Google products, along with all major social media sites. A comprehensive list can be found here.