Vanuatu island hit by ransom attack, cripples government

Australia Edited By: Riya TeotiaUpdated: Nov 18, 2022, 05:20 PM IST


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The small island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean got git by a ransomware attack that cripple all the electronic systems of their government and forces the staff to use pen and paper. 

The small archipelago of the South Pacific Ocean, Vanuata, was attacked by ransomware on 4 November, Friday and stranded the country for over a week. According to civil servants in the government, they noticed that their official emails started bouncing back from government addresses, this was the first sign when they found that something was wrong.

The attack that bring the Vanuta government to a halt for 11 days, forced some of their workers to use pen and paper while causing widespread delays across the island nation. The officials were not able to access emails and all the internal systems. 

The ransomware also disabled the websites of the island's parliament, police, and prime minister's office; by taking down the intranet and online databases of schools and hospitals, it bring the island nation to a standstill. The country with a population of about 315,000 people, stranded many across several islands to carry out their basic tasks like paying taxes, invoicing bills, and getting licences, and travel visas.

Instead of electronic transfers, people were paid through cheques. Some civil servants even told
the agencies that they had to run from one department to another department to get the relevant checks
and signatures on a single application.

It's unclear how the attack took place and what protections Vanuatu had in place currently. Experts have noted the whole system was centralised and hosted on the government's own servers, which is a fundamental security flaw. The island nation has already sent requests for an upgrade
to their systems to the concerned authorities, but for the time being, neighbouring Australia is helping it to rebuild its network. 

In recent years, Vanuata has become one of the Pacific islands that are closest to China. It was the Chinese investments on which its parliament house building, sporting stadium, and convention centre were built. Although, its neighbour, Australia, has been Vanuatu's largest aid donor and closest security partner for over four years. 

(With inputs from agencies)


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