A trove of email addresses and passwords of the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Gates Foundation employees has been circulating among far-right neo-Nazi groups, reports Vice. But the circulation of that personal data is just the latest in a wave of growing attacks on science and health officials who are working to fight the spread of COVID-19 across the globe.
Vice’s sister site Motherboard obtained the list and said it’s likely that the WHO, CDC, and Gates Foundation have not been hacked directly. Rather, the emails and passwords on the list are likely to have been compiled from a series of unrelated hacks and data breaches. Yet the fact that the information is being accumulated and compiled could signal the potential for attacks against the employees—or against the organizations themselves.
It’s possible attackers could use credentials from the list to try to infiltrate those organizations’ systems directly. As Vice points out, some far-right extremist groups have been particularly active since the pandemic began, including groups considered to be “accelerationists”—extremists who want to accelerate the downfall of society. By compiling lists like the one being shared, it appears they are actively working toward their goal.
Yet digital attacks aren’t the only threats facing science and health officials. On Monday, the WHO confirmed that one of their staff members in Myanmar was killed in a violent attack while driving a WHO vehicle that was transporting COVID-19 surveillance samples.
“This incident once again puts the spotlight on the extreme hardships being faced by our corona warriors—our doctors, nurses, other health workforce—especially while working in security-compromised and hard-to-reach areas as they continue to contribute their best to save lives,” Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the regional director of WHO South-East Asia, said after the attack.
He’s not wrong. Attacks against public health workers all over the world are on the rise, even in the U.S., with lockdown protestors now heckling the very nurses and doctors who are risking their lives to save ours. Unfortunately, incidents like these seem only likely to increase as powerful figures like President Trump cheers the protestors from the sidelines, imploring them to “liberate” locked-down states.