Vanuatu’s Government’s servers were taken out on November 4th, leaving 315,000 people unable to pay taxes, invoice bills, get licenses, or purchase travel visas.

Websites of Vanuatu’s parliament, police, and prime minister’s office were disabled by hackers, while the email system, intranet, and online databases of schools, hospitals, and other emergency services were also out of use.

Crucial services such as the health system, shipping, and airlines were affected by the attack. It was back to pen and paper for some of the Government staff, who even started using their personal emails and internet hotspots in order to cover the essential tasks of their work.

Experts suspect the whole system was centralized and hosted on the government’s own servers, which they consider being a serious security flaw.

How Do Vanuatu Authorities Plan to Get Back Their Online System?

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the threat actors asked for a ransom, but the Vanuatu government refused to pay it, reports BBC. Engineers are now trying to completely rebuild the system and Australia, which is considered to be Vanuatu`s largest aid partner, was already asked to give a hand in solving this network problem.

The Australian Cybersecurity Centre in the Australian Signals Directorate is assisting Vanuatu’s government in rebuilding the system, according to foreign affairs and security officials familiar with the situation.


Why Would Hackers Attack a Small Island Nation’s System?

Dr. Meg Keen, director of the Pacific Islands Programme at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, says that for now, no one knows for sure who the attackers are, but that „a government spokesman has suggested it was an outside attack, likely from the Asia region.”

Some think the cyber-attack was initiated in Indonesia. Vanuatu is a supporter of the independence movement in West Papua, an Indonesian province. While a big percentage of the population is Melanesian, the Indonesian military is accused of gross human rights abuses in the province.

Another opinion is related to Vanuatu’s geographical position which makes it a key nation for the US, China, Australia, and New Zealand.

According to Dr. Keen, like many other countries, Vanuatu was also planning to increase its government information defense system regarding potential external attacks. „The attack is an added strain on public systems.”, dr. Keen considered.

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