As the U.S. struggles to get a handle on what has become a global pandemic, COVID-19 isn’t the only thing Americans have to worry about: scam artists, profiteers, and cyber hackers are also attempting to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis.
It’s something Attorney General Bill Barr isn’t happy about, and in a memo released Monday, he promised that those who prey on their fellow citizens will be brought to justice, the Washington Examiner reported.
“The pandemic is dangerous enough without wrongdoers seeking to profit from public panic, and this sort of conduct cannot be tolerated,” Barr said, according to the Examiner.
Going after the scammers
According to the Examiner, Barr directed “every U.S. attorney’s office” Monday “to prioritize the detection, investigation, and prosecution of all criminal conduct related to the current pandemic.”
“In addition to ensuring that the justice system can continue functioning during the current national crisis, it is essential that the Department of Justice remain vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the crisis,” the attorney general added.
Of particular concern are those selling fake coronavirus “cures” and others pushing apps claiming to track the spread of the disease that contain malware, Barr noted, according to the Examiner. The attorney general also said he’s received “reports of phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization [WHO] or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC].”
“As we face the nationwide spread of COVID-19, I want to emphasize that the critical mission of the Department of Justice must and will continue,” Barr added. “It is vital that we work together to safeguard our justice system and thus the safety and security of our nation.”
Cyberattacks and disinformation
As Barr vows to crack down on fraudsters, the National Security Council (NSC) has similarly in recent days tried to tamp down on rumors that a nationwide lockdown will soon be implemented.
“Text message rumors of a national quarantine are FAKE,” the agency tweeted Sunday. “There is no national lockdown.”
Bloomberg News reported Monday that hackers had also hit the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with an online attack.
“We are aware of a cyber incident related to the Health and Human Services computer networks, and the federal government is investigating this incident thoroughly,” NSC spokesman John Ullyot declared, according to Bloomberg. “HHS and federal government cybersecurity professionals are continuously monitoring and taking appropriate actions to secure our federal networks.”
Looks like Barr has his work cut out for him.