Don't be a victim during a pandemic! Analysing security and privacy threats in Twitter during COVID-19

Bibhas Sharma, Ishan Karunanayake*, Rahat Masood, Muhammad Ikram

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


There has been a huge spike in the usage of social media platforms during the COVID-19 lockdowns. These lockdown periods have resulted in a set of new cybercrimes, thereby allowing attackers to victimise social media users with a range of threats. This paper performs a large-scale study to investigate the impact of a pandemic and the lockdown periods on the security and privacy of social media users. We analyse 10.6 Million COVID-related tweets from 533 days of data crawling and investigate users' security and privacy behaviour in three different periods (i.e., before, during, and after the lockdown). Our study shows that users unintentionally share more personal identifiable information when writing about the pandemic situation (e.g., sharing nearby coronavirus testing locations) in their tweets. The privacy risk reaches 100% if a user posts three or more sensitive tweets about the pandemic. We investigate the number of suspicious domains shared on social media during different phases of the pandemic. Our analysis reveals an increase in the number of suspicious domains during the lockdown compared to other lockdown phases. We observe that IT, Search Engines, and Businesses are the top three categories that contain suspicious domains. Our analysis reveals that adversaries' strategies to instigate malicious activities change with the country's pandemic situation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29769-29789
Number of pages21
JournalIEEE Access
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s). Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


Dive into the research topics of 'Don't be a victim during a pandemic! Analysing security and privacy threats in Twitter during COVID-19'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this