Malware disguised as meeting apps spiked by 1,067% in 12 months

Edward G. | April 14, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the majority of people to move their work to their homes, which meant an unprecedented increase in online meeting application usage. 

Criminals did not overlook this fact and started to distribute malware using popular meeting applications as a lure. 

Atlas VPN analysis reveals that cyberthreats disguised as videoconferencing applications jumped by 1,067% in a year. The data analyzed was provided by Kaspersky, a Russian cybersecurity and anti-virus provider.

Threat actors spread these malicious files through phishing emails or websites. Fraudsters create seemingly authentic emails and websites to lure victims into downloading the installer, which comes with a hidden bonus called malware.  

In March 2020, the anti-virus provider detected 90,000 malicious installers hidden under the name of popular meeting applications, while in February 2020, the number jumped to a staggering 1.05 million, representing a 1,067% increase.

Most threats were detected in January 2021, when victims encountered 1.15 million cyber threats. 

Throughout last year, hackers attacked victims with this type of malware around 411,000 times per month. The volume of attacks increased steadily during 2020, with a noticeable spike in November and December.

Yet, numbers fade in comparison to this year’s attacks since victims already experienced 2.2 million attacks in the first two months of the year, when the total number of attacks in 2020 was 4.11 million.

The most popular applications used to disguise malware are Zoom, MS Teams, Slack, Webex, HighFive, Lifesize,, Flock, Gotomeeting.

Malicious software can wreak havoc on a personal computer or the whole organization. Hackers use malware to infiltrate the computer with the goal of stealing passwords, deleting files, and even locking computers so that they would be inoperable until payment is made. 

We invite you to go over the most important cybersecurity practices against these types of attacks, as it is useful to refresh our memories in the wake of a never-seen-before rise in cyber attacks on all fronts.

Cybersecurity practices for 2021

While the applications used to disguise malware might have changed, the security steps to protect yourself against instructions remain the same. What changed is how vigilant you should be online because of the record-high hacker activity. Thus, be careful when using meeting apps like Zoom or HouseParty.

There are countless little tricks that fraudsters can use to dupe you into clicking on a phishing link or downloading an attachment. As a rule of thumb, simply decide to ignore all email attachments and links until you confirm with your colleagues, friends, or Google search that a particular company is indeed sending out such emails.

You might be tempted to skip out on checking a particular email closely because your favorite restaurant is offering a great discount that is only available for the next 24-hours, but that is exactly what the criminal aims to achieve by including time-sensitive offers.

Scam websites also reached unprecedented levels in the past year. Google detected a record-high 2.11 million phishing sites in 2020. Looking at the last decade year-by-year, the volume of phishing portals grew by 43% on average. Also, groups specializing in creation of suspicious apps have also been detected.

“These websites pretend to be legitimate so that they can trick users into typing in their usernames and passwords or sharing other private information. Web pages that impersonate legitimate bank websites or online stores are common examples of phishing sites.”, explains Google’s Transparency Report.

Once again, whenever you are directed to a website from any link or form, be it Google Ads, email link, or an apparent message from a friend, you should proceed with caution. 

Finally, a huge red flag should also go up if you are browsing a well-known website and detect spelling or grammatical errors. Hackers rarely hire professional writers to proofread their texts, which makes this an obvious clue to detect a phishing site.

Stay cautious and have a safe online journey! 

Edward G.

Edward G.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. My mission is to scan the ever-evolving cybercrime landscape to inform the public about the latest threats.



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