The Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning that cybercriminals are using phishing e-mails that appear to come from Healthcare.gov ahead of the upcoming final deadline to apply for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Homeland Security’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) issued the alert and says the e-mails sent to consumers reference the Affordable Care Act in the subject line and claim to direct users to health coverage information. Instead, these e-mails direct users to sites that elicit private information or install malicious code.

“Phishing is a criminal mechanism employing both social engineering and technical subterfuge to steal consumers personal identify data and financial account credentials,” according to Anti-Phishing Working Group, Inc., a worldwide coalition for the global response to cybercrime. In the first half of 2014, the group reported 123,741 attacks worldwide, more than the 115,565 reported in the second-half of 2013. No numbers have been kept or disclosed for attacks specific to Healthcare.gov.

Homeland Security says users can protect themselves by:

  • Not following links or download attachments in unsolicited email messages; and
  • maintaining up-to-date antivirus software.

If affected by the campaign, users are encouraged by DHS to report the incident to appropriate parties within their organization and notify US-CERT.

This problem also affected Healthcare.gov during the first open enrollment. TrendMicro reported at that time that before open enrollment even began in 2013, criminals were “spewing ACA-related spam as early as first weeks of September.”

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