Cyberattack on Colombian Government Ministries Disrupts Operations
Colombia is grappling with a significant cyber crisis as several prominent government ministries face operational disruptions due to a ransomware attack on technology provider IFX Networks Colombia. The Ministry of Health and Social Protection, the country’s Judiciary Branch, and the Superintendency of Industry and Commerce have all been impacted by the attack, prompting officials to take drastic measures to mitigate the fallout.
Ministry of Health and Social Protection Affected
The Ministry of Health and Social Protection reported that it began experiencing issues after IFX Networks informed them of problems affecting its data center. As a result of the cybersecurity incident, crucial applications used for the provision of national-level healthcare services have become inaccessible. The ministry is working diligently to implement alternative mechanisms to continue serving the health sector and minimize the attack’s impact. The agency plays a pivotal role in setting healthcare policies, promoting health initiatives, and coordinating citizen care.
Judicial Branch Suspends Hearings
The Judicial Branch also fell victim to the ransomware attack, leading to the suspension of all hearings from September 14 to 20. The attack affected the entire department’s cloud infrastructure, with IFX Networks reporting a ransomware attack on several machines. Despite summoning IFX representatives, immediate service restoration is not feasible, prompting the judiciary to suspend its obligations temporarily.
Superintendency of Industry and Commerce Disrupted
The Superintendency of Industry and Commerce, responsible for managing consumer rights and market competition in Colombia, confirmed that it was also impacted by the attack. As a result, some of its operations were suspended temporarily.
Wider Impact and Uncertainty
Additional government agencies reported technology-related issues throughout the week, and citizens took to social media to express frustrations with government departments. The exact scope of the attack’s impact remains uncertain, with authorities unsure of how many entities have been affected by the IFX Networks incident.
While no ransomware group has publicly claimed responsibility for the attack, cybersecurity researchers have shared evidence linking the RansomHouse hacking group to the incident. RansomHouse, known for deploying various ransomware strains, recently targeted Colombian healthcare provider Keralty. The ransom note from the IFX incident closely resembles the one used in the Keralty attack.
Calls for Cybersecurity Measures
Saúl Kattan, an adviser to Colombia’s president, referred to the attack as the “largest on infrastructure in Colombia in recent years” and criticized the country’s legislature for failing to approve a new ministry dedicated to cybersecurity by just one vote. Kattan stressed the importance of urgently establishing the National Agency for Cybersecurity and Space Affairs.
Global Trend of Government Ransomware Attacks
Colombia joins a growing list of countries whose national governments have been targeted by ransomware attacks. This alarming trend includes Costa Rica, which faced a crippling attack after refusing to pay a $20 million ransom to a Russian hacking collective in April 2022, the Dominican Republic, and most recently Sri Lanka. Coincidentally, this attack coincides with the U.S. National Security Council’s call for governments worldwide to pledge not to pay ransomware hackers, emphasizing the urgency of bolstering cybersecurity measures on a global scale.