Costa Rica's Alvarado says cyberattacks seek to destabilize country as government transitions
SAN JOSE, April 21 (Reuters) - Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado said on Thursday that recent cyberattacks on state computer systems are aimed at destabilizing the Central American country as it transitions to the new government of president-elect Rodrigo Chaves.
Six public institutions were hit by cyberattacks this week, officials said. The Russia-based cyber crime group Conti claimed responsibility, demanding $10 million in exchange for releasing stolen or encrypted data from Costa Rica's finance ministry, according to local media.
"This attack is not an issue of money, but seeks to threaten the stability of the country in a situation of transition. They will not achieve this," said Alvarado, who is preparing to leave office as Chaves assumes power on May 8.
Chaves has not commented on the attacks.
Alvarado said the threat of cyberattacks remains "latent."
"The Costa Rican state will not pay these cyber criminals anything," Alvarado said in a message released to the media.
The hackers accessed historical taxpayer information considered "sensitive" after intervening in the Treasury's customs platforms, Finance Minister Elian Villegas said on Wednesday, without specifying the amount of data breached.
Some platforms, including those of tax and customs, remained suspended for a fourth day, causing a bottleneck in imports and exports. The country's exporters union reported losses of $200 million on Wednesday.
Alvarado said officials are still working to asses the damage, prevent new attacks and restore services with the help of experts from private companies, international organizations and countries including the United States, Spain and Israel.
The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned in March of cyberattacks by Conti, known for using ransomware programs to extort millions of dollars from its targets.
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