The World Health Organisation (WHO), one of the key agencies working to tackle the ongoing coronavirus crisis, has seen a “dramatic” increase in cyberattacks since the pandemic started.WHO said that it has seen a fivefold increase in the the number of cyberattacks directed at its staff, and email scams targeting the public. 

The health organisation said around 450 active WHO email addresses and passwords had recently been leaked online, along with thousands belonging to others working on the coronavirus response. It insisted the leaked credentials did not put WHO systems at risk because the data was not recent, but said that the attack did impact an older extranet system that’s used by current and retired staff as well as partners. The organisation said it is now migrating to a more secure authentication system.

Earlier this week it was revealed that email addresses from WHO and other organisations tackling COVID-19 had been leaked online.

Fraudsters and more sophisticated hacking groups have seized on the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity, hoping to benefit from the fear and uncertainty created by the outbreak and the confusion caused by the rapid switch to remote working, which may leave some workers more vulnerable to digital attacks. Scammers are trying to steal credit card details or passwords that they can then use for frauds; state-backed hacking groups are also using the opportunity to conduct espionage, even as governments try to tackle the global health threat.

WHO said it is now working with the private sector to establish more robust internal systems and to strengthen security measures, and is educating staff on cybersecurity risks.

The health organisation also noted that there has been a increase in scammers impersonating it in phishing emails, in order to trick people into giving money to fraudsters instead of the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

“We are grateful for the alerts we receive from member states and the private sector. We are all in this fight together,” said WHO’s CIO Bernardo Mariano. 


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