A ransomware attack has been reported in Italy's region of Lazio, which made the region's IT systems inoperable, including the COVID-19 vaccination registration portal. The Lazio area was hit by a ransomware cyberattack early Sunday morning, encrypting all files in its data center and disrupting its IT network.
The COVID-19 vaccination scheduling website for the Italian region of Lazio was taken down by a cyberattack, highlighting the fragility of healthcare data and vaccine technology during the pandemic. According to Italian officials, hackers targeted the government of Lazio, the region that includes Rome, on Sunday.
Italy's COVID-19 vaccination schedules delayed
Scheduled vaccination appointments will take place, but the mechanism for booking appointments will be unavailable for a few days, according to Lazio Regional President Nicola Zingaretti. Stefano Fratepietro, CEO of Tesla Consulting S.r.l., said a cybersecurity firm located in Bologna, Italy, the assault appeared to be part of a supply-chain hacking effort targeting Italian firms.
Fratepietro said he is working with another victim of the assault who appears to have used the same source as the Lazio government. He refused to offer any further information. Per Wall Street Journal, requests for more information regarding the attack were not responded to by representatives of the Lazio regional administration.
Since early last year, hacker interest in healthcare institutions and COVID-19 vaccine-related infrastructure has increased significantly. In blog postings published in December and April, security experts at International Business Machines Corp. stated that attackers attempted to hack dozens of firms engaged in the transportation, warehousing, and storage of vaccinations. Last year, the US and other governments warned that Russian, Chinese, and Iranian hackers targeted vaccine development businesses.
Officials consider terrorism behind Italy cyberattack
Two investigation sources told Reuters on Tuesday that terrorism is among the reasons for a cyberattack that shut down all services supplied by the Lazio region through its website. Hackers targeted and shut down the IT systems of the business that administers COVID-19 vaccination appointments on Sunday, which manages services for 5.9 million people living in a broad area surrounding Rome.
It claimed that all systems, including the region's health site, were disabled and warned that the vaccination inoculation program might be delayed. On Tuesday, two sources told Reuters that Rome's prosecutors had started a probe into the breach, citing terrorism as a possible aggravating element for those responsible.
The hackers have not yet requested for money or other payments, but they started a conversation with the region that may soon lead to a ransom demand. In a Facebook post on Tuesday, the Lazio region announced that services for ordering vaccinations and accessing the immunization register would be restored within 72 hours. According to the authorities, there is still no proof about where the attack originated.
Investigators said critical health data, including President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Mario Draghi, was not compromised by the hackers, who have yet to be identified. The Rome prosecutor's office described the offenses as unauthorized entry and aggravated harm to an IT system, as per CNN.
During a press conference, President of Lazio Nicola Zingaretti claimed that while the attackers have not been recognized, they were from a foreign nation. Emergency services continued to operate normally, and Zingaretti apologized to people for delays in other services while IT professionals worked to prevent the spread of new assaults.