Amid coronavirus crisis, Iran-linked hackers tried accessing WHO staff emails
The outbreak of COVID-19 around the world - and the fear stemming from it - has made hackers more potent in their activities. We have seen a significant rise in phishing attacks revolving around the disease, and now, reports have suggested that the staff of the World Health Organization has also been targeted, by an Iran-linked group of hackers. Here's what went down.
After speaking to people familiar with the internal developments at WHO, Reuters has discovered that hackers working in the interests of the Iranian government tried compromising the personal email accounts of some WHO staffers. They launched a series of phishing attacks over the last month to gain access to staff's login-password details and eventually access their messages.
According to the sources, the phishing attack began on March 2 through email messages claiming to be from Google services. "We've seen some targeting by what looks like Iranian government-backed attackers targeting international health organizations generally via phishing," one of the sources told the outlet, which also verified the claims by reviewing the malicious websites the emails led to and other forensic data.
As of now, there is no clarity on how many WHO staffers were targeted in this attack or if any of their email accounts were actually compromised and information was stolen. A spokesperson from WHO confirmed the hacking attempt to Reuters but said, "To the best of our knowledge, none of these hacking attempts were successful."
A spokesperson at Iran's IT ministry, on the other hand, denied any involvement, telling the agency that "these are all sheer lies to put more pressure on Iran. Iran has been a victim of hacking."
The attack on WHO staff comes as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across countries and hackers keep taking advantage of the situation to spread malware and steal critical information and money. Ever since the disease, which has killed over 50,000 worldwide, started spreading, attacks on the WHO and its partner health agencies alone have more than doubled.