The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is warning individuals of the potential for “malicious cyber activity” by criminals as the aftermath of a Category 4 hurricane continues to batter parts of the country.
DHS’s computer emergency readiness team issued the alert on Monday, urging computer users “to remain vigilant for malicious cyber activity seeking to capitalize on interest in Hurricane Harvey.”
This activity could include fraudulent emails masquerading as charity donation requests that are designed to get targets to click on a malicious link, commonly referred to as “phishing scams.”
“Users are advised to exercise caution in handling any email with subject line, attachments, or hyperlinks related to Hurricane Harvey, even if it appears to originate from a trusted source,” the alert warns.
“Fraudulent emails will often contain links or attachments that direct users to phishing or malware-infected websites,” it says. “Emails requesting donations from duplicitous charitable organizations commonly appear after major natural disasters.”
DHS is directing individuals to use caution when opening email attachments, ensure that anti-virus software is updated, and verify the legitimacy of any solicitation they receive via email by contacting the organization.
Harvey, now a tropical storm, has devastated large areas of Texas since it made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane Friday night and could deliver an unprecedented 50 inches of rain to local areas, including Houston. President Trump has approved disaster declarations in the states of Texas and Louisiana.