Hackers Demand Ransom After Major Cyber-Attack on the Antwerp Laboratory

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Algemeen Medisch Laboratorium bvba, (AML) in the Antwerp district of Hoboken was attacked by hackers; the laboratory manages about 3,000 Covid-19 tests daily, which is about 5% of the nation’s total. The cyberattacks amid the outbreak of Coronavirus have rampantly increased over the past year and this attack was nothing new but yet another addition to the newly surfaced theme of malware and ransomware attacks in the context of ‘COVID-19’. 

 
Hackers attacked the laboratory website by installing ransomware into it, it brought the website to a standstill. As we have seen in the past as well in the case of ransomware attacks – the hackers are demanding a ransom before releasing the website from confinement. 

 
ICT manager Maarten Vanheusden has said, “that after detailed analysis by our security teams, it was decided to disengage the network as a safety measure and by this way we can see what exactly is infected”. He also said by this time there is no information of data being stolen and that they are taking all the precautionary measures. Furthermore, the origins of the attack remain unknown as of now. The traces linked back the hackers to China, Russia, and Iran.  

 
AML is the largest private lab in the country which is dealing with the COVID-19 problem. There is no clarity regarding the purpose of the attack, speculations could not exactly suggest that whether the hackers attacked the laboratory merely for ransom or they have other plans as well as data theft. The case is being handled by the federal Computer Crimes Unit after the lab reported the attack to the Antwerp prosecutor`s office. 

 
This is the second time in December that hackers have attacked the sites related to the Covid-19 pandemic. European Medicines Agency (EMA) was targeted in a cyber-attack; EMA is responsible for assessing and approving vaccines for the European Union. German biotech firm BioNTech said, “that the agency was attacked and some documents which were related to the regulatory submission for Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine had been unlawfully accessed”. 

 
Hackers are targeting many healthcare and medical organizations especially during this Covid-19 outbreak for demanding ransom as well as to obtain the classified information related to the vaccines.

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