As the number of novel coronavirus cases has started spiking in New Jersey, so too has the amount of cyber schemes and hack-attacks.

“Certainly we’ve seen an uptick since this virus has really started spreading,” said Jared Maples, the director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.

“Bad actors are trying to take advantage of what they think may be a lessening of focus on cyber security and trying to breach certain systems.”

He noted a lot of information is being distributed electronically about COVID-19.

“They’re using that, of course, because of the heightened public interest to get you to click on an attachment or a link and that’s what we want the public to focus on is make sure before you click, think before you click," he said.

Maples said one thing to look out for in any kind of email is misspelled words or "the email just doesn’t look quite right, doesn’t make sense — Dunkin' Donuts is spelled wrong, for example. That was one we saw a while back.”

State and federal authorities last week warned that foreign powers were responsible for a fake text message about a national "two-week quarantine" implemented by U.S. Homeland Security and the National Guard.

On Friday night, the White House said "there is disinformation regarding the Coronavirus coming from China, Russia, Iran, and others. Disinformation includes texts with fake rumors about a national lockdown. Follow guidance from state and local authorities for real updates."

He noted since the novel coronavirus started spreading, there has also been a surge in phony remedies.

New Jersey's Office of Homeland Security this weekend also warned of increased activity by extremists -- saying in an analysis they've "encouraged followers to conduct attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic to incite panic, target minorities and immigrants, and celebrate the deaths of their enemies."

It said white supremacists were trying to use COVID-19 to advance a theory that a total social breakdown is needed to rebuild society as a "racially pure nation," telling supporters to incite panic with tactics like discharging firearms in cities and pullet bullet-sized holes into car windows. It said A French neo-Nazi blog "proposed 'exterminating' immigrant populations and excluding ethnic minorities from receiving medical treatment. And ISIS has has "encouraged jihadists to capitalize on the fear, ensuing chaos, and stress caused by COVID-19 by conducting attacks throughout afflicted and vulnerable populations in Europe and the United States," Homeland Security said.

Maples also said with so many workers and students now staying at home, the state Office of Homeland Security has been staying in constant communication with the major service providers in New Jersey “regarding capacity, regarding making sure they can handle the influx. There has been a huge surge obviously in use of WiFi, in use of the internet across the state.”

Information to prevent malicious cyber attacks can be found on Jersey’s Homeland Security website.

Also on New Jersey 101.5:

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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