COVID-19: Virtual and Economic Impacts in the World of Prosecution

Contributing Authors: Joyce R. King, Chief Counsel, Frederick County (MD) State’s Attorney’s Office & Nelson O. Bunn, Jr., Executive Director, NDAA

Photo credit: Pixabay/Stock Photo

The spread of the novel coronavirus has shifted large swaths of the country’s population to a virtual environment, abandoning the physical office space and opening up a whole new arena of challenges impacting communities and the criminal justice system. The increased virtual nature of work means a proliferation and enhanced risk of cybercriminals looking to exploit concerns surrounding public health by luring individuals into sharing sensitive information.

Cybercriminals may attempt to access personal information by distributing malicious email attachments and providing links to fake or fraudulent websites for protective products and services or soliciting donations to fraudulent charities or causes.

Any emails with a COVID-19-related subject line, attachment, hyperlink, social media pleas, texts or phone calls, should be reviewed carefully before making any commitments.

Some examples of the techniques employed by hackers that you should consider, specifically related to the coronavirus threat are:

  • Urgent emails requesting that you visit a website, install software, or reply with sensitive information.

In parallel with the virtual world, bad actors may also try to take advantage of the current COVID-19 crisis by conducting activities considered to be price gouging. Prosecutors around the country have been issuing warnings to their communities to be aware of potential price gouging and to call state hotlines when a situation that potentially could be price gouging occurs.

  • In Oregon, state law allows district attorneys to address price gouging once the governor has determined that an “abnormal disruption of the market” has occurred.

If you feel that a price gouging situation occurs, check with your local law enforcement agency to report the incident and ask about state hotlines and other resources available.

The National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) is the oldest and largest national organization representing state and local prosecutors in the country.