Recently, a sophisticated cyberattack was detected against computer servers hosting information held by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The attack compromised personal data and confidential ICRC information of more than 515,000 vulnerable people, including those separated from their families due to conflict, migration and disaster, missing persons and their families, and people in detention.
The attack impacted the ICRC system that the American Red Cross uses to conduct the Restoring Family Links program. The ICRC, along with the wider Red Cross and Red Crescent network, jointly runs Restoring Family Links, which seeks to reunite family members separated by conflict, disaster or migration.
“For 150 years, the ICRC and the wider Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement have played a unique and essential role in protecting vulnerable populations from the harms of armed conflicts, natural disasters and other emergencies,” the U.S. Department of State said in a statement.
“Targeting the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s sensitive and confidential data is a dangerous development. It has real consequences: this cyber incident has harmed the global humanitarian network’s ability to locate missing people and reconnect families,” the statement continued.
Robert Mardini, ICRC's director-general, called the attack an “affront to humanity, endangering those already suffering the effects of war or disaster.”
Mardini noted that the attack has hampered the organization’s ability to reconnect families, including those separated after the recent volcanic eruption and tsunami-induced flooding in the Pacific island nation of Tonga and Afghans feeling violence.
“Collectively, we must hold the line: Cyber operations and attacks against medical entities and humanitarian data and organizations are dangerous, unacceptable and unlawful,” Mardini said.
“The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement strives to be the best humanity has to offer. We help people in the worst of circumstances and uphold their dignity. This attack harms the vital work we all contribute to,” he said.
The U.S. Department of State called on other governments to join the ICRC in raising the alarm about this breach.