Iranian hackers target WHO staff email accounts: report

Iranian hackers target WHO staff email accounts: report
© getty: World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Iranian-linked hackers representing government interests attempted to break into the email accounts of World Health Organization (WHO) staffers in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reported Thursday.

Reuters cited four sources with knowledge of the situation in reporting the attempted hacking incidents, which have been ongoing since March 2. The hackers sent malicious phishing emails to WHO staff accounts that mimicked those from Google web services in an attempt to get staffers to share their email passwords. 

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told Reuters that the agency was aware of the attacks, and that “to the best of our knowledge, none of these hacking attempts were successful.”

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WHO did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment. 

Iran’s government denied any involvement in the email targeting, with a spokesperson for Iran’s information technology ministry telling Reuters that the claims were “sheer lies to put more pressure on Iran” and that Iran “has been a victim of hacking.”

Iran — alongside China, Russia and North Korea — is widely seen as one of the most dangerous nations in cyberspace. 

The incident comes less than two weeks after Reuters reported that WHO was unsuccessfully targeted by an elite group of hackers, and that the health agency had seen a spike in attempted cyberattacks since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Cyberattacks against health agencies and organizations have seen a massive increase over the past few months amid the coronavirus outbreak, with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also attacked by hackers in March. Already overwhelmed hospitals are bracing themselves for cyberattacks by those looking to make money in the midst of the crisis.