Threat Reports

COVID-19 Threat Digest #17, 06 April 2020

 

 

  

Actions by Governments

  • Greece extended its nationwide lockdown until April 27th.
  • Guatemala banned domestic travel and all recreational activities, including the sale of alcohol, until April 12th.  
  • Indonesia requested all citizens to wear masks, especially when outdoors.
  • Israel is working on putting together a fund, worth roughly $1.6 billion, from both public and private sources. A fourth of the fund is to be provided by the government, while the rest is to be put up by private investors.
  • Japan is expected to declare a state of emergency, effective from Wednesday. The new measure will affect major metropolitan areas, including Tokyo and Osaka.
  • Japan’s stimulus package will be implemented in two phases. The first phase will focus on preventing job losses and bankruptcies, while the second stage will try to support economic recovery.
  • Kenya extended its ban on all international flights for another 30 days. The ban does not apply to repatriation and cargo flights.
  • Malaysia launched a new mobile app, called MySejahtera, to monitor the outbreak.  The app relies on data collected from individuals via self-assessments.
  • Mexico is reducing the salaries of all high-ranking government officials, returning VAT to taxpayers and ensuring taxes won’t be raised, in a new set of financial support measures.
  • Russian government announced loans applicable for loan repayment holidays. The new measure was implemented to help those affected by the outbreak.
  • Spain is aiming to roll out a universal basic income as soon as possible to support families struggling financially.
  • UK announced that up to 4,000 low-risk prisoners in England and Wales will be released due to a rising number of COVID-19 cases in prisons.
  • Ukraine closed its borders with Russia at several checkpoints to limit the spread of the virus.
  • US Centers for Disease Control began conducting blood tests to determine how many Americans have been infected with the coronavirus. Blood is being drawn from people who have not been diagnosed to search for the presence of virus antibodies.
  • WHO’s latest Situation Report.

 

Actions by Companies

  • American Airlines has reduced their flight capacity at New York airports by 90%.
  • Barrick Gold, a gold mining company, has made $1.5million of equipment available to the government of the Congo. 
  • Boeing have extended the suspension of their production lines in Seattle until further notice.
  • Cobham, a UK-based technology company, have created an air pressure regulator using existing hardware from military aircraft.
  • ENGIE Italy will provide free assistance to 93 hospitals across the country. This will include electricity, gas and technical assistance.
  • Exxonmobil has partnered with the Global Center for Medical Innovation to produce personal protective equipment.
  • Gilead Sciences, an American biotechnology company, is increasing production of the drug Remdesivir, due to its potential use as a treatment for Covid-19.
  • Google and Twitter have both removed bans on coronavirus-related advertisements.
  • H&M have closed all their stores in Australia until further notice.
  • Heineken and Carlsberg Breweries in Malaysia have had their approval to operate revoked, after being deemed non-essential business.
  • Netflix are reducing the streaming bitrate of their platform across Africa until the end of April 2020.
  • Nissan have reduced their production operations in Thailand, citing employee wellbeing concerns.
  • PSA, the manufacturer of Peugeot and Citroën, have been loaned 3 billion euros to maintain financial security.
  • Starbucks Korea has introduced social distancing in their dining areas, by placing tables and chairs five feet apart.
  • Tesco, alongside multiple other firms, have joined SaluteTheNHS, to help serve 1 million meals to health workers across the UK.
  • Tesla has designed a prototype ventilator that uses parts from a Tesla Model 3.
  • Volkswagen Germany is producing 3D printed face shields for medical workers.
  • Volvo Cars Sweden have extended the suspension of production until April 20th, 2020.

 

Drugs, Treatments & Vaccines

AstraZeneca and GSK in talks to assist with Covid-19 testing

Following the UK government’s pledge to increase testing to 100,000 a day by the end of April, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca are allegedly in talks to develop new testing methods and to help overcome material shortages.

 

Patients with virus required for UK clinical trials

The Health Secretary announced that patients with Covid-19 are needed for clinical trials, to determine the effectiveness of potential treatments.

 

Research suggests patients with chronic respiratory diseases are not more at risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection while diabetes patients are.

With COVID-19 being an acute respiratory disease that can lead to respiratory failure and death, it would be reasonable to anticipate that patients with chronic respiratory diseases would be at increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and more severe presentations of COVID-19. However, recent research suggests that such patients are actually under-represented, while by contrast the prevalence of diabetes in patients with COVID-19 is higher than the estimated prevalence. 

 

Societal & Economic Impact

Searches for ‘prayer’ surge worldwide

Google Trends data for 75 countries suggests that the ‘search intensity’ for ‘prayer’ doubles for every 80,000 newly reported cases of COVID-19. The data was published in a paper by Jeanet Bentzen, an associate professor at the Department of Economics at the University of Copenhagen.

 

5G phone masts burned down in UK

Mobile phone mast fires in Birmingham, Liverpool and Merseyside are being investigated amid conspiracy theories that 5G is associated with the spread of COVID-19. There is no evidence that phone masts contribute to infection. The infrastructure is essential, however, for healthcare services and those working from home.

 

German police arrest man who called for demonstration

A man from Baden-Wuerttemberg has been arrested for trying to organise a protest, in contravention of restrictions on mass gatherings. The protest was reported to police by concerned citizens and would normally have been allowed, said a police spokesman.

 

Global uncertainty about coronavirus at record levels

IMF research shows that uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic is at record levels across many countries with significant numbers of cases. Uncertainty around disease outbreaks tends to be highest in advanced and emerging market economies, but remains at low, but rising levels in low-income economies. 

 

Truck drivers alert Trump to risk of infection

The largest organisation of independent truck drivers in the US has written a letter demanding that Donald Trump act to protect drivers from COVID-19. Deemed ‘essential workers’, professional drivers are responsible for moving 71% of the nation’s freight by weight, but have not been provided with any protective equipment. A mass sickness would have a huge impact on the nation’s supply chain.

 

29% of US economy idle during shutdown

A study by Moody’s Analytics suggests that US daily output has fallen by 29% compared to the first week of March. The estimation is based on the number of businesses forced to close in each county, across the 41 states that have given directives to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Most economists expect output to pick up again in the summer or fall.

 

Bangladesh sends food aid to sex workers

The lockdown of the sex industry in Bangladesh means that many of an estimated 100,000 women will no longer have a means of supporting themselves. The country’s government has started to send emergency food and aid to those affected.

 

US meat and poultry production increases

According to the Livestock Marketing Information Center, combined meat production is up 8.5% compared to the previous year amid strong retail demand. Wholesale beef and pork prices also increased as much as 22% in mid-March, but have now trended downwards again.

 

Poles asked to buy Polish products and support economy

Amid issues faced by producers during the pandemic, Polish President Andrzej Duda and the nation’s Agriculture and Rural Development Minister have moved to strengthen a campaign that encourages the purchase of food products made in Poland.

 

Heat has been filtered on Coronavirus-related news for the 24 hours leading up to a stock market close. The size of the bubble indicates the volume of articles.

Heat measures the attention a country gets in the news for 24 hours vs media’s average daily reporting on such a country. Above/below 100% = more/less than usual.

The stock market changes are based on the most recent closing levels of major stock market indices.

 

Geopolitical Impact

Russia set to hold Victory Day parade despite pandemic

Vladimir Putin is set to host world leaders at the military parade scheduled for May 9, marking the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. So far, the Kremlin has resisted cancelling the event and continues to hold rehearsals where up to 15,000 soldiers practice on parade grounds outside Moscow.

 

France asks South Korea for expertise on fighting coronavirus

French Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari asked his South Korean counterpart Kim Hyun-mee for advice during a recent phone call. South Korea has not restricted public movement or transportation, but citizens have been very active in cooperating with government guidelines that include wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding outdoor activities.

 

Poor quality PPE sent to Ireland by Chinese company

The Irish health service has complained to the Chinese company responsible for delivering €200 million worth of protective equipment because nearly 20% of the order is unusable. An additional 15% of the PPE has been deemed usable in a backup scenario.

 

Opinion: WHO failed to challenge China on coronavirus early enough

Lawrence Freedman argues that despite being alerted to the existence of COVID-19 in December, the WHO accepted Beijing’s assurances that there was little to worry about, failing to act on information provided to it by Taiwan for political reasons.

 

Cybersecurity Impact

Researchers discover 11 fake COVID-19 tracking apps

The apps pretend to be related to tracking coronavirus cases, and mainly target users in Italy. All of the fake apps are repackaged versions of the SM_COVID19 app and kept many of the original features, yet were also injected with Metasploit. The apps also contain a module that could download any additional payload.

 

Interpol warns health organisations of ransomware attacks

Interpol detected a significant rise in attempted ransomware attacks against organisations and infrastructure currently dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. A Purple Notice has been issued to police in its member countries.

 

Malicious DAA files delivered using coronavirus-themed campaigns

Security researcher Xavier Mertens discovered malicious files being sent with less common extensions, in this case DAA, to avoid detection. These are being delivered via phishing and scam emails using a COVID-19 theme. 

 

Snowshoe campaigns utilise coronavirus theme

Snowshoe campaigns accounted for over 40% of the email that Symantec blocked in March. There was a rise in spam attacks on March 16th, 2020, which coincided with an increase in reported infection in the US and Europe.

 

Nigerian prince lures adapted amidst coronavirus outbreak

Researchers at PhishLabs discovered threat actors repurposing 419 scams to include a coronavirus theme. A recent example includes an email supposedly from the Department of the Treasury, which was sent from a known phishing address. 

 

West Midlands Police warns of ongoing COVID-19 scams

The scams include a fake NHS site that charges users £5 to speak to a doctor, and a phishing email from ASDA that states the user can claim a £500 voucher. 

 

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Although Silobreaker has relied on what it regards as reliable sources while compiling the content herein, Silobreaker cannot guarantee the accuracy, completeness, integrity or quality of such content and no responsibility is accepted by Silobreaker in respect of such content. Readers must determine for themselves what reliance they should place on the compiled content herein.

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