Vanuatu struggles back online weeks after cyberattack

Vanuatu struggles back online weeks after cyberattack

Reuters illustration
Reuters illustration

PORT VILA: Vanuatu's government said on Thursday it was slowly getting its communications back online following a cyberattack that knocked out emergency services, email and phone lines on the South Pacific island nation for weeks.

Chief information officer Gerard Metsan said "70 percent of the government network" had now been restored, including crucial emergency lines for ambulance, police and fire services. He did not give details of which services remained affected but said all government departments were back online after some hardware was replaced.

Government servers and websites on the Pacific island nation had been out since November 6, when suspicious activity was first detected. The attack knocked out online services, email and network-sharing systems, in many cases forcing officials to use other platforms to communicate. Experts from Australia were called in to help, Vanuatu's recently elected Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau told reporters, adding that it remained unclear who was behind the cyberattack.

Data analysis of the hackers showed "persistent traffic" from Europe, Asia and the United States, "but these indications could be misleading", said Kalsakau. He could not say whether the attack was state-sponsored, adding it was also too early to determine the full extent of the damage.

Experts suspect the cyberattack came through a non-secure government website managed by third parties and workstations with known security weaknesses, Kalsakau said.

A police source who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity said they were investigating whether locals helped assist the hackers. The small South Pacific nation of 315,000 had limited ability to deal with the problem, and Kalsakau said safeguards were being installed in the network to reduce the risk of another cyberattack. 

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