Hackers Had Access to Red Cross Network for 70 Days


One month after disclosing a data breach that affected roughly 515,000 people, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced that the hackers had access to its network for 70 days before the attack was discovered.

The attackers gained access to the Red Cross network on November 9, 2021, by exploiting CVE-2021-40539, a critical-severity authentication bypass flaw in Zoho’s ManageEngine ADSelfService Plus, ICRC explains in an updated FAQ.

ICRC says the attackers employed various techniques to pose as legitimate users and hide their presence in the environment, and to steal personal information such as names, contact details, and location.

“This was a sophisticated attack – a criminal act – breaching sensitive humanitarian data. We know that the attack was targeted because the attackers created code designed solely for execution on the concerned ICRC servers, a technique we believe was designed to shield the hackers´ activities from detection and subsequent forensic investigations,” ICRC says.

[READ: Red Cross Appeals to Hackers After Major Cyberattack]

No further details on the threat actor behind the attack were provided, but investigative journalist Brian Krebs says that a hacker claiming to be in possession of stolen Red Cross data might be linked to an Iranian influence operation.

The hacker, Krebs says, registered an account on an underground forum using an email address that was also used to register multiple domain names that were associated with said influence campaign.

Despite the hacker’s attempt to sell access to the Red Cross data, ICRC says that, to its knowledge, “the information has not been published or traded at this time.”

In a statement this week, ICRC says it has been working with Red Cross and Red Crescent National Society partners to inform all of those who had their data compromised in the incident, to “mitigate the risks they may face.”

“Those affected include missing people and their families, detainees and others receiving services from the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement as a result of armed conflict, natural disasters, or migration,” ICRC says.

On their FAQ page, ICRC says it has had no contact with the attackers and has received no ransom demand, but notes that it is willing to interact with the attackers, “to impress upon them the need to respect our humanitarian action.”

Related: Red Cross Falls Victim to Massive Cyberattack

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Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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