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3 Weeks After Hack, This Island Nation’s Government Is Still Off-line

3 Weeks After Hack This Island Nations Government Is Still


The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia reported this month that the hackers had demanded a ransom, which the government had refused to pay. The office of Vanuatu’s chief information officer did not respond to repeated requests for comment by phone, text and email.

Though governments are hit by cyberattacks “every day,” it is unusual for their systems to be brought down because “invariably governments are pretty good with cybersecurity,” said Nigel Phair, the director for enterprise at the Institute for Cyber Security at the University of New South Wales.

Hackers usually target sensitive data that a government would be likely to pay to protect, Mr. Phair said. “If it’s highly sensitive tax information, or social security or health information or some part of the prime minister’s department — that’s more likely to elicit a favorable response for the criminals rather than an I.T. system which just, for example, looks after the mowing schedule for local parks.”

Carsten Rudolph, the deputy dean of the faculty of I.T. at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, said that because of their small populations, it can be hard for Pacific Island nations to maintain a cybersecurity staff that can meet the challenges governments currently face.

“It’s not only a problem for the Pacific, but they have specific issues around it because of the sizes of the countries, and because of people moving away because of contact with climate change and risks in the area,” he said. “So we cannot just look at cybersecurity just as an issue that is not connected to all these other issues.”

Mr. Craig, the consultant, said it was “disappointing” that Vanuatu’s government did not have more extensive contingency plans for keeping services going in the event of a prolonged network outage.

“Some departments have been good, they’ve immediately gone on their social media and said ‘these are the alternative Gmail accounts for our staff,’” Mr. Craig said. “Other departments — no, I wouldn’t have any idea of how to communicate with them.”



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