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Red Cross hit with cyberattack that compromised data of 515,000 'highly vulnerable people'

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it detected the attack this week and confirmed that it was not a ransomware attack.
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Written by Jonathan Greig, Staff Writer on

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was hit with a cyberattack this week that compromised the personal data of "more than 515,000 highly vulnerable people."

In a release on Wednesday evening, the organization said it discovered a "sophisticated cybersecurity attack" this week that targeted servers hosting the information of people who have been separated from their families due to conflict, migration, and disaster as well as missing persons, their families, and people in detention. 

According to the statement, the data accessed came from at least 60 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies located around the world. The hackers targeted a Swiss company that the ICRC hires to store its data. 

The ICRC told ZDNet that it was not a ransomware attack, but in their statement, they said they were forced to shut down the systems underpinning a program called "Restoring Family Links." The program helps reunite family members separated by conflict, disaster, or migration.

"An attack on the data of people who are missing makes the anguish and suffering for families even more difficult to endure. We are all appalled and perplexed that this humanitarian information would be targeted and compromised," said Robert Mardini, ICRC's director-general. 

"This cyberattack puts vulnerable people, those already in need of humanitarian services, at further risk."

The organization said it was most concerned that the confidential information people shared with them was leaked in the breach. There is currently no indication that any of the data has been leaked or shared publicly, according to the ICRC. 

It is unclear what group conducted the attack, and no group has come forward to take credit for it. 

Mardini urged those responsible not to share the information, noting the damage it would cause to those who trusted the organization with extremely sensitive information.

"Your actions could potentially cause yet more harm and pain to those who have already endured untold suffering," Mardini said. "The real people, the real families behind the information you now have are among the world's least powerful. Please do the right thing. Do not share, sell, leak, or otherwise use this data."

Mardini said the ICRC helps to reunite an average of 12 missing people each day. 

"Cyberattacks like this jeopardize that essential work," Mardini added.

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