The Brazilian Superior Court of Justice’s (STJ) was the subject of a suspected ransomware virus attack in November of last year, leading to an interruption of several judgments and suspension of procedural deadlines, due to an invasion by hackers of the STJ systems.

The attack is suspected to have used the same malicious ransomware programs that were already used in various attacks on governments and organizations around the world, which hijack large amounts of data and request a ransom for their release and threaten to leak such data in cases of non-compliance.

It is among the most serious of such incidents to occur in Brazil to date and is reported to affect as many as 12,000 lawsuits pending before the courts. There is a real worry in this case that the material accessed by the hackers is already copied and under their control. This shows the vulnerability of the public systems in Brazil in terms of data protection and the need for urgent measures to be taken by all public authorities in order to prevent such incidents.

Hackers also attacked the Brazilian Superior Electoral Court system during the period of the municipal elections in November 2020, leading to the leak of significant private data. According to local Brazilian news outlets, the crimes committed were the invasion of a computer device and the establishment of criminal association, as defined by the Brazilian Penal Code, as well as other crimes under Brazilian electoral law. In an international operation, a number of Brazilian and Portuguese hackers have already been arrested.

An invasion of Ministry of Health websites, also during 2020, interfered with the release of data on Covid-19, and is also being linked to the same international group of hackers. Personal information from patients with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 diagnoses was made available on the internet for almost a month after Ministry of Health passwords were posted on an open platform. Passwords allowed access to data such as personal ID numbers (CPF), addresses, telephone numbers and details of pre-existing illnesses of at least 16 million people across the country, including President Jair Bolsonaro and other members of the Government.