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Hackers breached the United Nations’ computer networks earlier this year and made off with a trove of data that could be used to target agencies within the intergovernmental organization.
The hackers’ method for gaining access to the UN network appears to be unsophisticated: They likely got in using the stolen username and password of a UN employee purchased off the dark web.
“We can confirm that unknown attackers were able to breach parts of the United Nations infrastructure in April of 2021,” Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, said in a statement on Thursday. “The United Nations is frequently targeted by cyberattacks, including sustained campaigns. We can also confirm that further attacks have been detected and are being responded to, that are linked to the earlier breach.”
The credentials belonged to an account on the UN’s proprietary project management software, called Umoja. From there, the hackers were able to gain deeper access to the UN’s network, according to cybersecurity firm Resecurity, which discovered the breach. The earliest known date the hackers obtained access to the UN’s systems was April 5, and they were still active on the network as of Aug. 7.
“Organizations like the UN are a high-value target for cyber-espionage activity,” Resecurity Chief Executive Officer Gene Yoo said. “The actor conducted the intrusion with the goal of compromising large numbers of users within the UN network for further long-term intelligence gathering.”
The attack marks another high-profile intrusion in a year when hackers have grown more brazen. JBS SA, the world’s largest meat producer, was hit by a cyberattack this year that forced the shutdown of U.S. plants. Colonial Pipeline Co., operator of the biggest U.S. gasoline pipeline, also was compromised by a so-called ransomware attack. Unlike those hacks, whoever breached the UN didn’t damage any of its systems, but instead collected information about the UN’s computer networks.
According to Resecurity, company officials informed the UN of its latest breach earlier this year and worked with…