The coronavirus pandemic shifted life online – it was followed by a surge in website defusing


A consequence of public adherence to social distancing and quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic is a sharp decrease in most types of crime. It looks like people who stay home are making communities less criminal.

Unfortunately, the news is not as good as these numbers alone suggest. Other attitudes show an increase in crime after the stay at home orders. One is the household that has domestic violence probably increased in the past two months.

As Researchers studying cybercrime, we discover that it is criminal activity on the rise in the online world, as. At the same time, many people are relying more than ever on online services for work, entertainment and shopping. She does that more likely to be the goals different types of online crime. And the websites and online platforms these internet users access become attractive targets for motivated hackers who want to take over and deface them.

Wave of defacement of websites

Website defacing is the online equivalent of graffiti vandalism. It occurs when a hacker infiltrates a server that hosts a website and alters the website’s content with images and text of their choosing.

Unlike more sophisticated forms of hacking, defacing websites does not require sophisticated hacking skills. In fact, several typologies of hackers suggest that this type of online crime is one Stepping stone for engaging in more sophisticated hacker attacks, as well as a way to make a name for yourself in the hacking community.

A website of a UK-based canoe and kayak club was recently defaced. Screen tomb of David Maimon

The damage suffered by victims of this online crime varies from loss of trust in the website owner to loss of revenue. If corporate websites are disabled by hackers, they will not be able to process transactions. During the coronavirus pandemic, many merchants have been forced to switch from in-person trading to e-commerce, which means it is likely that more companies are becoming victims cyber crime.

Results of a recent analysis we carried out based on information about defacement activity reported on the hacking information page Zone-h, assume that the average daily number of website defacement attacks reported in April 2020 is 50% higher than the average daily number of attacks reported in April 2019. In addition, the volume of website defacement attacks reported by mid-May 2020 has already exceeded the volume of attacks reported in May 2019 for the entire month.

This steady increase in daily website defacement attacks started in late March 2020 while January and February remained constant. This leads us to believe that the ubiquitous isolation imposed by governments around the world has given hackers more time to stay online, which has become the driving force behind this trend.

Smaller locations in the crosshairs

Our study of the types of websites attacked by hackers shows that large corporations and government agencies are less likely to be victims. The average daily number of nifty defaces against government agency and large private company websites rose from 17.75 daily attacks in February to 21.6 daily attacks in April.

However, the frequency of these attacks is much lower than the average daily total number of website defacements reported by hackers during this period. Apparently, the websites of small businesses, social associations and private individuals are being attacked disproportionately by hackers.

Website defacers prefer to attack extremely vulnerable websites as many of them are inexperienced hackers, often referred to as script kiddies. They lack the skills to attack high profile targets but are motivated to make a name for themselves among their online peers.

The results of our analysis suggest that the number of newbies experimenting with defacing websites has increased rapidly during the COVID-19 crisis. The average number of reports of defacements by first-time hackers in February was 3.41 per day. In April, the number was 6.31 a day, up a 77% increase in the number of first-time hackers.

As more new hackers try to make a name for themselves by attacking vulnerable websites, it is imperative that small business owners and individuals alike protect your websites from attacks. Protection strategies should include keeping the software used to maintain websites up to date, using strong passwords to access the servers that host the websites, preventing website users from uploading files , allowing you to connect to websites using the secure Internet Protocol (HTTPS), and using website security tools. Fortunately, visitors to defaced websites are generally not at risk.

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The conversation

David Maimon, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Georgia State University and C. Jordan Howell, PhD student in criminology, University of South Florida

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