WHO doubles its security team as phishing attacks ramp up

Hackers are targeting top officials after employee emails circulated online

Cyber security professionals working for the World Health Organisation (WHO) have "never been busier", according to its CIO, as top officials are being targeted by constant phishing campaigns. 

The organisation has had to increase its security resources while it deals with the outbreak of COVID-19, the WHO's chief information officer (CIO), Bernardo Mariano, told Bloomberg

This is because cyber attacks on the organisation have significantly increased since mid-March when the coronavirus moved up to pandemic status. WHO used to have just one security alert a month, according to Mariano, but that has shot up to eight in April as national cyber security authorities warned it of repeated "nation-state actor attacks".

These alerts have come from authorities in Isreal, the EU, the UK and Switzerland and also include warnings from Interpol and Microsoft.

The hackers are not attacking the WHO directly, but are instead looking for its highest-ranking officials, according to Mariano, particularly key officials involved with its COVID-19 work.

It's thought that many of its employee's passwords have leaked through other websites and are now being used for phishing and spearfishing campaigns. Malware-loaded messages are being sent to both work and personal accounts that will compromise computers or mobile phones. 

More than 2,000 passwords thought to be linked to WHO email accounts have been circulating on the internet forum 4chan, according to Bloomberg, with the details popping up on social media site too. Most of these email accounts were no-longer in use, according to Mariano, but some 400 were still used by WHO employees. 

Some of the top targets have included the organisation's director-general Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Bruce Aylward, a senior WHO official who led a COVID-19 response team in China. There has also been a "sustained attempt" to hack into computers operated by a four-member team in South Korea and also its HQ in Geneva.  

As a result, the organisation has doubled the size of its security team and is now working with five security companies to bolster its defences.  

Featured Resources

The complete guide to changing your phone system provider

Optimise your phone system for better business results

Download now

Simplify cluster security at scale

Centralised secrets management across hybrid, multi-cloud environments

Download now

The endpoint as a key element of your security infrastructure

Threats to endpoints in a world of remote working

Download now

2021 state of IT asset management report

The role of IT asset management for maximising technology investments

Download now

Recommended

The IT Pro Podcast: What COVID-19 can teach us about open data
Data & insights

The IT Pro Podcast: What COVID-19 can teach us about open data

30 Oct 2020
The future tech helping battle the pandemic
Technology

The future tech helping battle the pandemic

20 Oct 2020
Transforming training with virtual reality
Careers & training

Transforming training with virtual reality

20 Oct 2020
Salesforce aims to help manage coronavirus vaccine demand
sales & CRM

Salesforce aims to help manage coronavirus vaccine demand

29 Sep 2020

Most Popular

Do smart devices make us less intelligent?
artificial intelligence (AI)

Do smart devices make us less intelligent?

19 Oct 2020
Best MDM solutions 2020
mobile device management (MDM)

Best MDM solutions 2020

21 Oct 2020
What is Neuralink?
Technology

What is Neuralink?

24 Oct 2020