Although cyberattacks on governmental organizations are nothing new, their intensity may increase. This fall’s instances show that entire local or national governments may be susceptible to significant disruptions from cybercriminals. The repercussions can technologically send entire communities decades back in time.
Vanuatu’s government has not been accessible online since the beginning of November due to a cyberattack. After a month, only about 70% of government services have been restored, and the attack’s exact nature is still unknown.
On November 6, the first day of its term, Vanuatu’s newly elected government became aware of issues with the country’s administrative computer systems. Finally, all computer services provided by the government were shut off.
People’s ability to renew their driver’s licenses or pay taxes access medical and emergency information, and access government email accounts were all affected. The nation returned to using pen and paper for many routine tasks.
In early November, the government would only acknowledge that it discovered a compromise in its centrally connected systems. Some sources, including the local Australian media that dispatched experts to assist in system repair, assert that the incident was a ransomware attack. The nature of the breach has yet to be confirmed by Vanuatu’s government.
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A similar cyberattack happened in a New York county approximately a month before Vanuatu’s government systems went down is one reason to think it might be ransomware.
Suffolk County shut down its computer systems after discovering a ransomware attack on September 8. Government departments, including the police and social services, were impacted by the blackout and were forced to use equipment from the early 1990s for several weeks: this required fax machines, paper checks, and radio transmissions.
The county also disclosed that the intruders obtained people’s private information, including driver’s license numbers. A county executive blamed the BlackCat cyber gang, which was previously linked to attacks in Florida and Italy.
Vanuatu’s degree of preparedness before its tragedy has yet to be well known, while Suffolk County officials’ worries were dismissed months before the September attack. The US county’s computers were running on outdated hardware that would be too expensive to upgrade and didn’t use two-factor authentication.
Tiny nations like Vanuatu and areas like Suffolk County make excellent targets for cyberattacks since they have fewer resources than powerful governments. Similar events will probably happen because fraudsters have plenty of other tiny targets to attack worldwide.
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