Image: Ernest Ojeh

PLAY ransomware group claims responsibility for Antwerp attack as second Belgian city confirms new incident

The PLAY ransomware group has claimed responsibility for a ransomware attack on the Belgian city of Antwerp last week, just as the city of Diest about an hour’s drive east confirmed on Monday that it has been hit by a cyberattack.

The PLAY group has threatened to begin leaking Antwerp’s stolen data on December 19. It is not clear what data was stolen.

VRT News reported that the city of Diest, which has about 20,000 residents, was also impacted by a cyberattack on Monday.

"The IT systems of all city services are down. At the moment we are trying to map everything out. The damage it has caused is still being investigated. We also don't know who is behind it yet," Mayor of Diest, Christophe De Graef, was quoted as saying.

The nature of last week’s attack on Antwerp has not yet been confirmed by officials, who said that the most significant impact was on the city’s residential care centers. The Antwerp public prosecutor's office said it has opened an investigation into the incident.

Johan de Muynck, the general manager of Zorgbedrijf Antwerpen (Antwerp Healthcare) warned that the software the organization used to “keep track of who should receive which medicines” was not currently working.

Patients are currently receiving paper prescriptions signed by doctors rather than typical electronic prescriptions.

In a statement available on Zorgbedrijf Antwerpen’s website on Monday, the organization said that the “server problems” had not been resolved, but “thanks to an emergency solution” there was now limited telephone access to customer support.

Local publication Het Laatste Nieuws (HLN) reported that citizen services were also impacted, quoting a spokesperson who said: “For example, we are currently no longer able to issue identity cards. Many of the applications at those counters are federal, and they have preventively closed the lines. Only travel passes can still be collected.”

Local councilor Alexandra d’Archambeau said that the mail service was down "as well as the online political decision-making platform."

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Alexander Martin

Alexander Martin

is the UK Editor for Recorded Future News. He was previously a technology reporter for Sky News and is also a fellow at the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative.