Antwerp laboratory becomes latest victim of cyber-attack

Antwerp laboratory becomes latest victim of cyber-attack

An Antwerp laboratory working closely on the management of the Covid-19 epidemic has been the victim of a cyber-attack. The hackers are demanding a ransom.

The attack took place on the General Medical Laboratory (AML) in the Antwerp district of Hoboken. Hackers installed ransomware on the lab’s website, bringing it to a standstill. As is typical in a case of a ransomware attack, the hackers are demanding a ransom before they release the site from captivity.

Attempts this morning to contact the AML site failed.

“After an extensive analysis by our security teams, it was decided to disconnect the network as a precaution,” said ICT manager Maarten Vanheusden. “That way we can see step by step what exactly is infected.”

The AML, a private enterprise, handles about 3,000 Covid-19 tests a day, or about 5% of he national total. As such, it is the largest private lab in the country dealing with the Covid-19 crisis.

It remains unclear if the attack was also aimed at data theft. Ransomware attacks are typically an end in themselves, the attacker only interested in extracting a ransom. Data thieves try to cover their tracks, while ransomware attackers do the very opposite.

“At the moment it seems that no patient data has been stolen,” Vanheusden said.

“This hostage action rather points to specific economic blackmail. We also have no idea from which source this attack comes.”

The lab reported the attack to the Antwerp prosecutor’s office, and the case is now in the hands of the federal Computer Crimes Unit.

The AML attack is the latest in a series of attacks on sites related to the Covid-19 pandemic, the VRT reports. Earlier this month, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in Amsterdam was the target of an attack. The hackers were able to obtain documents about Pfizer’s corona vaccine.

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