Ϸ UN confirms hacking of dozens of servers in sophisticated cyber attack - The Hindu BusinessLine

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          Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on January 30, 2020 Published on January 30, 2020

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          The United Nations on Wednesday confirmed that it had been targeted by a group of hackers across multiple office locations, according to a report in The New Humanitarian.

          TNH had discovered the hack back in 2019 and was able to acquire a confidential document, confirming that a group of hackers were able to gain access to dozens of servers across the UN’s Geneva and Vienna offices. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had also been targeted.

          The UN  confirmed the data breach and  released a statement detailing its attempts to contain the situation.

          The hackers had allegedly taken advantage of a flaw in Microsoft's SharePoint software and had gained access to the servers through an unknown malware in July 2019, Engadget reported.

          The UN had failed to inform its employees about the hack until TNH had broken the news. The employees were asked to change their passwords but were not informed of the data breach. The three offices collectively have more than 4,000 employees, according to the TNH report.

          The incident is an apparent espionage operation, TNH reported.

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          The complete scope of the attack is still not known. However, the data breach could apparently lead to important information being leaked -- including the usernames and passwords of employees. The “core infrastructure” affected by the attack also included printing, anti-virus systems and security firewall. An estimated 400 GB worth of data had been downloaded, the report said.

          The UN’s diplomatic status frees the organisation of legal obligations to report such breaches.

          Data obtained from the OHCHR can also lead to surveillance, arrests or intimidation for human rights activists, TNH reported.

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          The extent of the leak and the repercussions still remain speculative.

          This is not the first time that the UN has been subject to such attacks. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) News in February 2019 had reported that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) had been targeted by a Chinese government-backed agency called ‘Emissary Panda.’  The breach provided access to information about nearly every airline, airport and government aviation agency globally, according to the report.

          State-sponsored cyber-attacks have been on the rise over the past few years. ZDNet in December 2019 had reported a series of phishing attacks and attempts to steal login credentials from government organisations of 22 different countries, including the US, Canada, China, Australia and Sweden.

          Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ phone was recently allegedly hacked by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, according to reports in the Guardian and the Financial Times.

          Published on January 30, 2020
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