A cyberattack has blocked several government websites in Colombia. Specifically, four state entities are affected: the Superintendency of Industry and Commerce, the Superintendency of Health, the Ministry of Health, and the Superior Council of the Judiciary.
Since Tuesday, September 12, these websites have displayed error messages or technical problems preventing access. Regarding the Superior Council of the Judiciary, the attack has paralyzed over 2 million judicial processes. What’s particularly concerning is that these are not temporary service outages; they involve the ransomware-based seizure of crucial state information.
The company that provides services to various government entities, as well as 17 other countries, reported that at around 5:50 AM on September 12, their cloud infrastructure “experienced an external cybersecurity attack of the Ransomware type, affecting some of its virtual machines.”
According to IFX Networks, the cybercriminals didn’t manage to obtain any confidential and important information hosted in the cloud during the entire day of September 12, thanks to security protocols.
The responsible parties have demanded a ransom
However, as reported by the newspaper El Tiempo, the cybercriminals have already requested a ransom from IFX Network in exchange for the stolen data from these Colombian entities. Julio César Mancipe, digital security advisor to the Presidency, and Saül Kattan Cohen, ICT advisor to the Presidency, confirmed this to the newspaper.
The attackers are demanding a specific amount of cryptocurrency in exchange for releasing the kidnapped data. If they don’t receive the ransom, they threaten to sell the illegally obtained data on the Dark Web.
“The information at IFX has already been encrypted, so it is certain that the attacker already owns that data,” said Mancipe, who has no doubt that the cybercriminals possess information from the four state institutions that were breached.
Initially, IFX Networks stated that it needed around 36 hours to resolve the contingency. However, the timelines are extending, and the problem persists without a resolution.
More than 5 billion hacking attempts
Colombia has been the target of more than 5 billion hacking attempts in the first half of this year, according to the cybersecurity company Fortinet. Consequently, the country ranks fourth in terms of cyberattack impact in Latin America, behind Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela.
Experts in this type of cyberattack highlight the vulnerability of the state’s system and the fragility of its technological infrastructure. This poses a significant risk to sovereignty, security, and the ability to respond to this type of criminal activity.
Colombia lacks a Cybersecurity Agency
The government has used this situation to emphasize the need for the country to establish a Cybersecurity Agency. Such institutions are dedicated to preventing these kinds of situations and avoiding the successful disruption of critical government functions.
In the previous legislative session, this institution was not approved by a single vote. In this new session, which began on August 7, the government has resubmitted the proposal to the legislature, hoping that this time it will gain the necessary consensus for approval.
Currently, there is another proposal from Senator David Luna of the Cambio Radical party, which is almost identical to the government’s in terms of technical and development aspects. The main difference is who would control the agency. According to the government’s proposal, the agency should be under the Presidency, as is the case in other countries. For Senator Luna, the future entity should be controlled by the Ministry of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies).