Hackers working in the interests of the Iranian government have attempted to break into the personal email accounts of staff at the World Health Organization during the coronavirus outbreak, four people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
It is not clear if any accounts were compromised, but the attacks show how the WHO and other organizations at the center of a global effort to contain the coronavirus have come under a sustained digital bombardment by hackers seeking information about the outbreak.
Reuters reported in March that hacking attempts against the United Nations health agency and its partners had more than doubled since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, which has now killed more than 40,000 worldwide.
The latest effort has been ongoing since March 2 and attempted to steal passwords from WHO staff by sending malicious messages designed to mimic Google web services to their personal email accounts, a common hacking technique known as "phishing," according to four people briefed on the attacks. Reuters confirmed their findings by reviewing a string of malicious websites and other forensic data.
"We’ve seen some targeting by what looks like Iranian government-backed attackers targeting international health organizations generally via phishing," said one of the sources, who works for a large technology company that monitors internet traffic for malicious cyber activity.