Location: Bogotá, Colombia
Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro convened an emergency meeting with the country’s security forces following a recent cyber attack that crippled more than two dozen government websites. The attack, which occurred early Wednesday, targeted one of the government’s web hosting providers, IFX Networks, and left the entire judicial branch struggling to function.
The malicious attack disrupted the ability of judges to schedule court hearings and conduct other essential proceedings that depend on internet access. Additionally, it impacted the websites of key ministries such as Health and Culture, as well as several superintendencies.
Reports from local newspaper El Espectador suggest that this cyber attack was part of an extortion effort directed at IFX Networks through ransomware, a type of malware that enables hackers to take control of computer systems. The attackers sought to leverage this control to demand a ransom.
While the extent of the impact on individuals whose data was stored on the government websites remains uncertain, the National Police’s cyber intelligence unit, PMU Ciber, has launched an investigation to assess the effects on citizens and other websites. PMU Ciber also hosted the emergency meeting, which saw the participation of officials from the prosecution and the government.
Within the first 24 hours following the onset of the attack, most of the judicial websites hosted by IFX Networks were successfully restored. However, some websites continued to experience downtime, highlighting the severity and persistence of the assault.
The incident underscores a concerning trend of cyber criminals deploying ransomware and engaging in data theft and extortion activities against national governments. These threat actors may believe that governments are more inclined to comply with ransom demands due to the urgent need to restore their systems to full functionality. The relative ease of executing such attacks, coupled with the widespread availability of ransomware, has made them a popular choice among cyber criminals, suggesting that such incidents are likely to persist in the future.
As Colombian authorities work diligently to address the aftermath of this cyber attack and strengthen their cybersecurity measures, it serves as a stark reminder of the evolving threat landscape that governments worldwide face in the digital age.