Highlights

  • Vanuatu government struggling a month after major cyber-attack
  • Malware attack on state systems on 30 October 2022
  • Officials using typewriters, phone books, personal laptops to work

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This country is using typewriters, pen & paper after major cyber-attack took down systems

Citizens and officials alike have resorted to accessing online Yellow Pages for finding contact numbers and private email accounts for basic communication.

Nearly a month since a cyberattack hit government-linked portals, the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu continues to function offline.

The Guardian reported that officials have switched to using private laptops and pen and paper to go about day-to-day functions. The attack affected websites of the country's parliament, police and the prime minister's office.

It also hacked the email system, intranet and online databases of schools, hospitals and other emergency services, the BBC reported.

Citizens and officials alike have resorted to accessing online Yellow Pages for finding contact numbers and private email accounts for basic communication. Some departments are reportedly functioning from their Facebook pages and Twitter.

With departments struggling to stay connected, impromptu solutions are being implemented for communication but outer islands government offices are suffering sharp delay in services, said The Guardian report.

Essentially anyone with a gov.vu email or domain has been affected, locals told the BBC. Private servers like airlines and hotel websites were not affected and business has continued as usual.

The Vanuatu government has remained tight-lipped about the malware attack however an Australian newspaper reported that the hackers demanded a ransom which the government refused to pay.

Problems with the government servers were noticed about a month ago when emails with public IDs were bouncing back and websites became inaccessible and some being redirected to sites of hackers believed to be behind the attack, according to multiple reports.

While the government says that the attack occurred on November 5, sources of the Vanuatu and Australian governments told The Guardian that systems went down on October 30.

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When the attack first hit, authorities first attributed the problem to damaged internet infrastructure. But an Australian official says that they recognised the attack having hallmarks of a cyber attack and not being caused by weather.

Matters grew worse once internal communication started becoming tougher each passing day. Prime Minister Kalsakau officially assumed office on November 4. And one day later the government acknoweldged the problem.

The present system can be fixed by upgrades to the software and uploading files on the cloud for better management, says an analyst working with the Ministry of Finance. However, local officials lack the expertise to do so and require 'outside assistance'. Reports say that the country has sought help from its aid partner Australia to restore the systems.

There is no concrete reason as to why Vanuatu was targeted but as per a BBC report, there have been speculations that the hack may have been carried out from Indonesia. For a long time now, says the report that Vanuatu has supported the independence demands of Indonesian province of West Papua. The Indonesian military has been accused of human rights abuses in the region.

The report goes on to say that another reason could be Vanuatu's position in the Pacific region, the country has key relations with the US, China, Australia and New Zealand.

Recently, Vanuatu has developed close ties with China. Beijing has invested heavily in Port Vila and also has an embassy in the capital. While Washington's representation is located in Papua New Guinea, accessible via a 3-hour flight.

Vanuatu's longest diplomatic relation, however, has been with Australia, its largest aid donor and closest security partner.

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