COVID-19 Threat Digest – 26 March 2020
Actions by Governments
The package will be used towards funding emergency aid and as an economic stimulus to assist Canadian citizens who are struggling financially. The announcement followed reports that close to 1 million Canadians claimed unemployment benefits in the last week.
The plan will be part of a new economic stimulus package that is to be compiled in April. The package will likely exceed ¥30 trillion (roughly $274 billion) and payments to households are expected to begin in May.
The government previously announced a $6.4 billion package to support businesses, workers and families who are affected by the crisis.
President Kenyatta announced pay cuts for himself, his deputy and to government officials. The savings are to support the country’s tackling of the pandemic. Kenyatta also announced a nationwide night-time curfew to begin on Friday.
The curfew will last between 8pm and 6am, daily. Additionally, all international flights departing from Juba International Airport have been cancelled with only exceptions being cargo and humanitarian flights.
The Finnish government decided to restrict travel to and from the Uusimaa region around Helsinki. The new measure is to last 3 weeks and is aimed at preventing the spread of the virus elsewhere in the country. Uusimaa is currently the epicentre of the outbreak in Finland, with roughly half of all confirmed cases.
The app is designed to help authorities track whether people have come into contact with individuals who tested positive for the virus. It will also be used to inform those who might have been in contact with COVID-19 patients.
The opportunity was posted on the government’s Digital Marketplace website. It is part of the Australian government’s new $18 million communications campaign, aimed to inform people on how to take part in containing the virus and staying healthy.
COVID-19 Hot Spots – US & Canada in the last 24 hours
Actions by Companies
- Amazon US have temporarily paused sellers’ loan repayments until April 30th, 2020.
- Apple have halted their production line in India, until at least April 14th, 2020.
- China Eastern Airlines are using some of their fleet to help deliver medical supplies to Spain, on behalf of Jack Ma and the Alibaba foundation.
- Dyson has produced 10,000 new ventilators for the NHS. These have not passed medical tests yet, but are expected to do so quickly.
- Facebook have launched a ‘Faith on Facebook Resource Hub’ to help religious and faith communities operate and keep connected online. They have also partnered with the Kenyan government to produce educational pop-ups about the virus across all of their platforms.
- Finansinspektionen, the Swedish financial services authority, have delayed their conclusion into an anti-money laundering assessment against Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB as a result of the pandemic. The decision is now expected to be issued in June 2020.
- Google have extended the contracts of their temporary workers by 60 days, and have started a fund to assist those unable to come to the office.
- IndiGo has offered the Indian government their aircraft fleet and crews to help transport medical equipment across the country.
- Kellogg’s have offered $5million in cash and food to support relief efforts around the world.
- Korean Air executives are taking significant salary reductions to help raise funds for the company to keep afloat.
- Microsoft has donated food and medical supplies to communities in Puget Sound, Washington.
- Nintendo have closed all of their repair centres in the US.
- NLMK, a Russian steelmaker, have suspended production at their plants in Italy.
- Paccar has paused production at all of their factories globally, due to ‘recent changes in customer demand’ and ‘a weaker outlook for the global economy’.
- Takeda Pharmaceutical, a Japanese pharmaceutical company, have donated $2million to a disaster relief fund.
- Tencent have announced a $100million ‘Global Anti-epidemic fund’, which will be initially used for medical resources.
- Vodafone New Zealand have reported ‘intermittent loss of fixed broadband and mobile data services nationwide’ as users report service outages, due to the volume of traffic using their network.
COVID-19 Hot Spots – Europe in the last 24 hours
Drugs, Treatments & Vaccines
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of convalescent plasma from those who have recovered from the virus to treat critically ill patients. According to a statement, it is possible that convalescent plasma containing antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 could be effective in treating the infection.
Societal & Economic Impact
Singapore has released its initial growth figures for this quarter, which indicate that the country may be heading for its first full-year recession. The figures demonstrate that GDP shrank by 2.2% year-on-year, while in the last quarter GDP fell by 10.6%. The figures mark the biggest quarterly contraction for Singapore since 2009. This week, the International Monetary Fund warned of a global recession potentially worse than the 2008 financial crisis.
A confrontation between the man and FBI agents began after they attempted to arrest 36-year-old Timothy R. Wilson in Belton as part of a domestic terrorism investigation. The suspect, who was killed in the altercation, reportedly held racist and anti-government beliefs and had decided to target the hospital due to the current virus outbreak.
Workers attempting to apply for universal credit in the UK after losing their jobs during the outbreak have found it difficult to claim. According to the Department for Work and Pensions, over 500,000 people have applied for payments in the last nine days, however only a portion of them will be successful due to the service being overwhelmed. First-time claimants have reported calling the service between 80 and 100 times without managing to reach anyone.
The Labor Department is set to release a report today detailing initial claims for unemployment benefits. The report is expected to show that several million US workers lost their jobs last week. Goldman Sachs estimates the national count could reach 2.25 million, while Morgan Stanley estimates 3.4 million and Oxford Economics approximately 4 million.
The UN has warned that a shortage of field workers, combined with protectionist policies such as tariffs and export bans could lead to a global food shortage. Maximo Torero, the chief economist of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation stated that ‘now is not the time for restrictions or putting in place trade barriers. Now is the time to protect the flow of food around the world.’
China and South Korea in particular have been impacted significantly according to reports of large outbreaks. China alone has reported 806 cases of coronavirus in five prisons across three provinces. Turkey’s government is developing a fast-track plan to release up to 100,000 inmates from overcrowded facilities. In Colombia last week two dozen people died after riots broke out as inmates protested against inadequate safeguards against the virus.
The number of reported break-ins at Swedish homes has dropped significantly over the last two weeks with cases in Stockholm county falling by 50%.
The outbreak has reportedly led to a drop-in crime of as much as 20% in some areas of the UK. Offences including burglary and violence were down last week compared to the previous seven days after people were asked to remain at home. The closure of pubs and clubs has also led to a reduction in violence-based crime.
The lawsuit against China is reportedly based on an unsubstantiated claim that the Chinese government developed the virus as an illegal biological weapon to release on their enemies. The complaint was filed by lawyer Larry Klayman and his group Freedom Watch who are seeking $20 Trillion from the Chinese government as a result of ‘callous reckless indifference and malicious acts’.
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.
Spokesperson Colonel Turki Al-Maliki announced that the coalition also supports the UN in ‘alleviating the suffering of Yemeni people’, in working to tackle the threats resulting from the pandemic and on outbreak prevention.
Australian PM Scott Morrison will urge G20 leaders to fund rapid research to develop a vaccine and support the trial of antiviral drugs. Morrison will also urge them to keep borders open for the trade of critical medical supplies.
Ambassador Woody Johnson wrote an article for The Times, stating that China endangered the world by suppressing information about the outbreak, resulting in its spread far beyond the country’s borders.
COVID-19 Hot Spots – Eastern Asia in the last 24 hours
The campaign, which was also reported by BleepingComputer, involves attackers altering routers’ DNS settings in order to redirect victims to a website promoting a coronavirus-themed application. The application, which supposedly comes from the World Health Organisation, delivers the info stealing Oski malware onto the target’s device.
Researchers at Bitdefender provided further details on the attack. The primary target of the attack appears to be Linksys routers, which hackers are apparently accessing by brute forcing remote management credentials.
The campaign, which appears to have begun on March 18th, 2020, uses Bitbucket to store malware samples. The attackers also use TinyURL to hide the Bitbucket link. The researchers found four Bitbucket repositories, two of which were still up. These two repositories had a cumulative number of 1,193 downloads. Over 73% of victims are in Germany, France and the US.
Researchers at MalwareHunterTeam and BleepingComputer have identified malicious WordPress plugins named ‘COVID-19 Coronavirus – Live Map WordPress Plugin’, ‘Coronavirus Spread Prediction Graphs’, and ‘Covid-19’. The malicious plugins, which are distributed by the threat actor behind WP-VCD malware, can be used to redirect to other sites and display malicious adverts.
Coronavirus-themed spear phishing attacks rise 667% since end of January Researchers at Barracuda detected 9,116 spear-phishing emails using a coronavirus theme between March 1st and March 23rd, this compares to 1,188 in February and 137 in January. The figure of coronavirus-themed attacks in March represented 2% of all spear phishing attacks detected during that period.
To date, 54% of the attacks have been scams, 34% brand impersonation, 11% blackmail-related, and 1% business email compromises.
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