World, Americas

Brazil: Hackers take down Ministry of Health website

Group that claimed responsibility for attack confirmed it to be ransomware; Minister promised punishment

Gabriel Toueg   | 10.12.2021
Brazil: Hackers take down Ministry of Health website

SAO PAULO

The websites of Brazil’s Health Ministry and the ConectaSUS platform, which centralizes vaccination data and other health information for Brazilians, were taken down by hackers in the early hours of Friday.

Both platforms were still down as of Friday noon in Brazil after the attack.

Early in the morning, when trying to access the ministry website, users only saw a black screen with a message which read “The internal data of the systems were copied and deleted. 50 Tb of data is in our hands. Contact us if you want the data back,” followed by an email address and a link to a Telegram channel.

This kind of attack is known as ransomware, a type of virus that hijacks access to system data by encrypting it. Usually hackers promise to release access after receiving a ransom. No information on ransom was released, though.

Hours later, the message was taken down, but the ministry's website was still inaccessible. The platform with vaccination data was also inaccessible, preventing Brazilians from issuing their vaccination certificates.

The Ministry of Health said in a note that “some systems were compromised” and that it called on the Federal Police and the Institutional Security Office of the Presidency of the Republic to investigate the case.

The Health Minister, Marcelo Queiroga, said that whoever is found responsible for the attack will be “exemplarily punished”.

“It’s being investigated, and once someone is found guilty, they will be exemplarily punished,” he said, calling the attack “a criminal attitude”.

“Today, [our] full efforts are on making this data available as soon as possible,” Queiroga said.

A group known as the Lapsus$ Group claimed responsibility for the attack but did not elaborate on what had motivated it.

The attack takes place in the wake of a controversy involving the Brazilian government’s decision not to demand the so-called “vaccine passport” from travelers arriving in the country, going against the recommendation by the country’s health authority, Anvisa. The decision has drawn criticism from the scientific community.

Last Wednesday, when making the announcement about the decision not to require proof of vaccination from tourists visiting Brazil, Queiroga said that, “according to President Jair Bolsonaro, ‘losing your life is better than losing your freedom’," which drew a lot of criticism. Earlier, Bolsonaro lashed Anvisa’s recommendation saying that the vaccination passport would be a “leash” around people’s necks.

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