The SITE Intelligence Group, a non-governmental US-based consultancy group that monitors online activities of international terrorist groups and tracks global extremism, recently discovered around 25,000 email addresses and passwords being posted online by unidentified activists. Reportedly, these credentials belong to the World Health Organisation, National Institutes of Health, the Gates Foundation, and various other organizations united in the global battle against COVID-19 – working to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.
The data of unidentified origins was exposed on Sunday and Monday and straight away used by cybercriminals to make attempts at hacking and take advantage of the posted information by causing incidents of harassment led by far-right extremists. The information made its first appearance on 4chan, an imageboard website where people anonymously post their opinions on subjects ranging from politics, anime, music, video games to sports and literature. It then subsequently appeared on Pastebin, Twitter, and Telegram groups belonging to far-right extremists.
However, the authenticity of the email addresses and passwords is still in question as the SITE said it was unable to verify the data. As per Robert Potter, an Australian cybersecurity expert, the 2,732 emails and passwords belonging to WHO were found to be authentic.
The biggest victim of the incident was NIH with a total of 9,938 emails and passwords being exposed, following NIH was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the second largest number i.e., 6,857 and the World Bank with a total of 5,120, according to the report by SITE. All three organizations were quick to decline the requests of making any comment on the matter.
While providing insights, SITE’s executive director, Rita Katz said, “Neo-Nazis and white supremacists capitalized on the lists and published them aggressively across their venues.”
“Using the data, far-right extremists were calling for a harassment campaign while sharing conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic. The distribution of these alleged email credentials was just another part of a months-long initiative across the far right to weaponize the covid-19 pandemic.” She further added.
Meanwhile giving assurance, Twitter spokeswoman Katie Rosborough said, “We’re aware of this account activity and are taking widespread enforcement action under our rules, specifically our policy on private information. We’re also taking bulk removal action on the URL that links to the site in question.”