Coronavirus: WHO sees rise in cyberattack attempts by hackers, official says

Elite hackers tried to break into the World Health Organization earlier this month, sources told Reuters, part of what a senior agency official said was a more than two-fold increase in cyberattacks amid the spread of a new coronavirus.

WHO Chief Information Security Officer Flavio Aggio said the identity of the hackers was unclear and the effort was unsuccessful. But he warned that hacking attempts against the agency and its partners have soared as they battle to contain the coronavirus, which has killed more than 15,000 worldwide.

The attempted break-in at the WHO was first flagged to Reuters by Alexander Urbelis, a cybersecurity expert and attorney with the New York-based Blackstone Law Group, which tracks suspicious internet domain registration activity.

Urbelis said he picked up on the activity around March 13, when a group of hackers he’d been following activated a malicious site mimicking the WHO’s internal email system.

“I realized quite quickly that this was a live attack on the World Health Organization in the midst of a pandemic,” he said.

Urbelis said he didn’t know who was responsible, but two other sources briefed on the matter said they suspected an advanced group of hackers known as DarkHotel, which has been conducting cyber-espionage operations since at least 2007.

Messages sent to email addresses maintained by the hackers went unreturned.

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