The World Health Organisation (WHO) says it has seen a dramatic increase in the number of cyber attacks directed at its staff members and email scams targeting at the public since the start of COVID-19 pandemic.
WHO, in a statement on Thursday said that this week, 450 active WHO email addresses and passwords were leaked online along with thousands belonging to others working on the novel Coronavirus response.
The leaked credentials did not put WHO systems at risk because the data was not recent.
“However, the attack did impact on older extranet system, used by current and retired staff as well as partners. WHO is now migrating affected systems to a more secure authentication system,” it said.
The world health agency warned that scammers impersonating WHO in emails have also increasingly targeted the general public to channel donations to a fictitious fund and not the authentic COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
It disclosed that the number of cyber attacks was now more than five times the number directed at the organisation in the same period last year.
Bernardo Mariano, WHO’s Chief Information Officer, said, “Ensuring the security of health information for Member States and the privacy of users interacting with us is a priority for WHO at all times, but also particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful for the alerts we receive from Member States and the private sector. We are all in this fight together.”
WHO said it was working with the private sector to establish more robust internal systems to strengthen security measures and educating staff members on cyber security risks.
The health agency advised the public to remain vigilant against fraudulent emails.
It recommend the use of reliable sources to obtain factual information about COVID-19 and other health issues.