MIAMI, Florida (November 30, 2017)—A cyberattack using the ransomware virus hit the daily operation of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA). The process of examination and recuperation of the hijacked information is underway.
The hackers asked for a ransom to be paid in Bitcoins (digital currency) to release the information that they had encrypted, but the IAPA chose to denounce the case before the FBI.
"We are still evaluating the damage and how to recover all our information and files that date back more than 60 years. We will never get tired of emphasizing our obligation to media of prepares ourselves, in the best possible way, for this kind of criminal incursions," said IAPA President Gustavo Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República.
The organization remained awaiting a reply from the local authorities who were notified by the FBI following the cyberattack.
Former IAPA President Matthew Sanders recalled that a few weeks ago the issue of cybersecurity was the central point in the annual General Assembly held in Salt Lake City, Utah.
"Cyberattacks on news media are intensifying and are increasingly common, sometimes with the intent of restricting freedom of expression and of the press and affecting the work of the press and other times for economic motivations, as occurred on this occasion," Sanders said.
During the IAPA meeting the panelists made recommendations: to set various levels of protection of information, from editorial content to the identity of journalists, as well as promote basic and tiered security habits.
The attack detected on Monday, November 21 took by surprise the organization, which was taking steps to transfer and store its data to Cloud, in line with the recommendation of informatics experts.
IAPA Executive Director Ricardo Trotti said that the virus affected files and work documents, some of them of an historic value, but had not compromised the organization's accounting and financial information.
He explained that the IAPA has servers for its Web sites outside of the internal network, for which reason not all the information was affected.
At the international level this year there have been registered attacks with ransomware and also the WannaCry virus on public, commercial and telecommunications institutions of the United States, England, Spain, France, Germany, China and Russia, which has uncovered the vulnerability of individuals and institutions in the digital era.
With increasing frequency, the IAPA's half-yearly press freedom reports reveal various kinds of cyberattacks upon news media in the Americas.
On January 10 the Mexican newspaper El Economista, reported that six out of every 10 native digital media in the country have suffered some kind of cyber attack. The newspaper based it report on a study by the companies SembraMedia and Omidyar Network.
Although denunciation to the authorities of the cyberattacks is a priority the police mechanisms recognize that they cannot do much given the magnitude of the problem. In addition, they admit that their resources have not been updated, while the digital crimes are increasingly more sophisticated.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.