Posted on March 25, 2020 at 9:52 AM
According to recent reports, hackers tried stealing passwords from the World Health Organization (WHO). However, the hackers were not successful in their hacking attempts on the international organization.
Chief Information Officer of the WHO, Flavio Aggio, pointed out that this sort of attack on the organization has increased in recent months.
According to him, “There has been a big increase in the targeting of the WHO and other cybersecurity incidents.”
He further said although the number of attacks is not clear, there is strong evidence that the attacks on WHO and other similar organizations have more than doubled within the past few months.
The attack on WHO was first revealed by Alexander Urbelis, an attorney and a cybersecurity expert. Mr. Urbelis follows the activities of hackers and tries to track them down. In one of his tracking duties, he discovered that the attack, which occurred on 13 March, was a live attack on the WHO amid a pandemic.
DarkHotel may be responsible for the attack
According to reports, the attack could have been perpetrated by a hacking group known as DarkHotel, which began operation in 2017.
Head of global research and analysis at Kaspersky, Costin Raiu, revealed that several malicious groups are targeting other healthcare organizations. He said the attackers could be looking for information about the vaccines or cures for the coronavirus, pointing out that such information could be worth a lot of value.
Just last month, the WHO revealed that some malicious groups were spreading wrong information and pretending to be an international organization. It warned the public to be aware of such malicious groups.
Aggio said the website Urbelis spotted was used to steal passwords from different agency staffers. He said there it’s not yet clear whether the hackers succeeded in stealing the passwords, as there are no complaints from the staffers.
Also, government officials in the UK, US, and other countries have warned that the remote workforce enforced by several governments to curtail the virus spread could be exploited by the hackers.
Motives of the attackers not clear
The reason behind the attack or what the attackers were looking for is still not clear. Aggio stated that he doesn’t know which section of the organization or who the hackers were targeting.
Similarly, security companies like Moscow-based Kaspersky and Romania’s Bitdefender revealed they have discovered several traces of DarkHotel’s operations in East Asia, which has been one of the worst-hit regions by the coronavirus.
They said the hackers have targeted government workers and businesses in countries like the United States, Japan, North Korea, and China.
Kaspersky’s head of global research and analysis, Costin Raiu, said he is not sure whether it was DarkHotel that attacked the WHO. But he confirmed that the same hacking syndicate was responsible for a series of other humanitarian and healthcare organizations in the world.
Cybersecurity experts have always alerted the public about the activities of hackers who are taking advantage of the current coronavirus scare to attack computers and infect them with malware.
Urbelis stated that he has found thousands of coronavirus-based websites that spring up daily, and the majority of them are solely for malware attacks.
Hacking syndicates have attacked other similar organizations
As some security researchers have pointed out, several other related humanitarian organizations have been attacked in recent weeks. For example, the Paris hospital authority, AP-HP, was the focus of some cyber attackers this week when the attackers tried to infiltrate their computers. However, they were not successful in their attack.
Some hackers recently attacked the Unites States Department of Health and Human Services to prevent the organizations’ ability to respond swiftly to emergencies. In Australia, the main information-sharing site about the coronavirus was also the target of another group of hackers.
There are several more cases like this, and many of the attacks are on humanitarian organizations or health institutions that render services to fight against the virus.