Spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said yesterday that the Express.co.uk hackers were targeting the WHO in several ways, including vishing (voice phishing), email phishing, WhatsApp phishing and social media scams. The Geneva-based health agency is central to the worldwide effort to stop the spread of disease – and therefore anything that slows down its operation will ultimately endanger lives. So far, the identity of the culprits remains uncertain.
Mark Mulready of Irdeto, a cybersecurity expert, told Express.co.uk: “Assignment is one of the most challenging aspects of cyber attacks.
"Known ransomware operators have stated that they will not target health and medical organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"However, there are already reports that a hospital in the UK has been hit by the Maze ransomware."
However, Mulready added: “The most likely scenario would be a state-sponsored attack.
"There have been countless reports that Russia is linked to the conduct of a disinformation campaign around COVID-19.
"Russian media observers in the EU have observed a significant number of articles that contain false and misleading information about the coronavirus pandemic designed to incite unrest in the West.
SEE MORE INFORMATION: Coronavirus crisis – insensitive hackers attack the World Health Organization
"They need to increase their cybersecurity levels.
"Do not trust systems with outdated and vulnerable software.
"Patch, patch, patch and test, test, test.
"Ensure that you have a secure backup (which would not be automatically affected in the event of a ransomware attack and test it) and have robust anti-phishing measures, as most ransomware infections begin with a mouse click by an employee".
Russian hackers are widely accused of targeting the 2016 US presidential election with a disinformation campaign.
A report published by Microsoft in October blamed Russian-sponsored hacker group Fancy Bear, which Microsoft has internally named Strontium, for "significant cyber attacks" on 16 national and international anti-doping and sports organizations, including the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) ).
Tom Burt, corporate vice president of security and customer trust at Microsoft, wrote: “The methods used in the most recent attacks are similar to those routinely used by the Strontium to target governments, armed forces, think tanks, security offices, advocacy, human rights organizations, financial companies and universities around the world.
"Strontium's methods include spear-phishing, password spraying, exploiting devices connected to the Internet and using open source and custom malware."
Speaking in 2017, Putin said: "Artists can act on behalf of their country, they wake up in a good mood and paint things.
"Even with the hackers, they woke up today, they read something about the relations between states.
"If they are patriotic, they contribute in whatever way they think is right, to fight those who say bad things about Russia."