Massive Health Ministry hack used privileged access

Health Ministry hack privileged access
The Conecte Sus app. Photo: Marcelo Camargo/ABr

At the end of 2021, with Brazil still in the throes of Covid, the Health Ministry’s online portal tabulating the country’s coronavirus figures went offline — and remained that way for weeks.

Datasus, the computerized system managing all of Brazil’s public health databases, had suffered a massive hacking attack, erasing its cloud storage and internal environment, including a wealth of Covid vaccination data. According to new information, the attack was reportedly carried out using privileged access credentials.

The Health Ministry saw a nearly 2,000-percent increase in hacking attempts and credential theft in 2021 alone, according to Datasus head Merched de Oliveira, who spoke at a cybersecurity conference on Wednesday.

Mr. Oliveira said that, despite investment in digital security, attackers are now “very professional.” He pointed out significant increases in firewall blocking, DDoS attacks, and other forms of attempted intrusion in 2021. “We had our hands tied for a week,” he said, about the major Datasus hack.

Servers from other government agencies were also targeted, including that of the Federal Comptroller General’s office.