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Hackers are leveraging the fears surrounding Coronavirus in order to carry out cyber attacks on a massive scale, security researchers have warned.

Malware and email viruses that use Coronavirus-themed lures to trick people have spread to over a dozen countries, according to security firm Proofpoint.

The company also observed that attackers are beginning to register URLs and create fake websites relating to Coronavirus in order to carry out malicious activity.

The emails being circulated come with a document attached that appears to contain an urgent message relating to new developments with the virus’s spread.

Opening the attachment launches an extremely malicious form of malware known as Emotet, which is capable of stealing valuable personal information like login details for banks. The infected device can also then be used to launch further attacks.

Hackers are using the media coverage of coronavirus to lure people into accidentally downloading malware.

Cyber security experts warn that some malicious links posing as innocent articles or videos about the outbreak of the killer Wuhan virus actually contains code designed to pilfer personal information.

Hackers are spreading articles, posts and videos masked as legitimate file formats, such as PDFs or MP4s, to hide their true nature.

If clicked on and downloaded onto a phone or computer, hackers can gain access to the user’s stored information and can destroy, block or copy data at will.

Facebook, Google and Twitter have all issued special provisions to clamp down on this, but criminals are clandestinely using the hysteria and panic to trap unsuspecting internet users.

‘The coronavirus, which is being widely discussed as a major news story, has already been used as bait by cybercriminals,’ said Anton Ivanov, Kaspersky malware analyst.

‘So far, we have seen only 10 unique files, but as this sort of activity often happens with popular media topics then we expect that this tendency may grow.

‘As people continue to be worried for their health, we may see more and more malware hidden inside fake documents about the coronavirus being spread.’

In order to avoid falling foul of the links, cybersecurity experts advise going directly to an official source.

A key way to spot the malware, is by looking at the end of the link’s address. If it has the extension that is not .docx., .pdf or .mp4, it is probably not legitimate.

Documents and video files should also not have been made with either .exe or .lnk formats.

Mr Ivanov told Tom’s Guide: ‘So far we have seen only ten unique files, but as this sort of activity often happens with popular media topics, we expect that this tendency may grow.’