The United Nations is a prime target for cyber attacks due to its far-reaching international network. In 2020, an internal report stated 42 servers had been compromised as well as administrator accounts.
Then in April 2021, another ongoing data breach compromised data in the Human Resources offices of the United Nations.
Both times, it wasn’t the United Nations that reported these attacks.
In the first case, it was a leaked internal report that broke the news. This confidential report detailed the July 2019 attack and asked staff to change their passwords. It appears from the report that the UN discovered the breach a month after it happened. What’s more, the breach itself was the result of a known vulnerability that already had a patch:
“Hackers used a known vulnerability (CVE-2019-0604) in an internet-facing Microsoft SharePoint server, a web-based collaborative platform integrated with Microsoft Office. Microsoft had issued fixes for this way back in March 2019. That the vulnerability was long-since disclosed, and the software patch long-since rolled out, does not look good for an organization such as the UN.”Forbes
News of this year’s attack came from a report by Bloomberg News, after cybersecurity experts noticed that UN information was up for sale in black markets. Cybersecurity firm Resecurity also notified the UN earlier this year, but reported that they weren’t taken seriously.
“Corrective actions to mitigate the impact of the breach had already been planned,” explained Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General. The spokesman went on to explain that there were additional, ongoing attacks happening every day that the UN cybersecurity team was responding to.
Attacks like these – and the lack of transparency from the UN – show us just how dangerous an effective cyberattack can be. Using stolen credentials, a hacker can gain access to global data and international networks that could even compromise governments, all without us even knowing.
“For enterprises and other organizations, emphasizing a culture of data security from top down – embraced by leaders and workers alike – goes a long way toward heading off human error and mistakes which could lead to stolen credentials and subsequent breaches.”Trevor Morgan, Comforte AG Product Manager (Clearance Jobs)
Explore another recent cyber attack by watching the Colonial Pipeline case video below.