N Touch
Friday 18 October 2019
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Editorial

Be serious about cybersecurity

The news that two government websites had been compromised by a computer hacker on Thursday morning was soon updated with news that 11 government websites had been hacked and subsequently taken offline by state IT authorities.

TT has not been singled out for this treatment. VandatheGod, the hacker’s handle, has defaced or inserted information into more than 3,600 websites in just over two years and operates a system that performs intrusions, confirms them by posting to an independent hack logging website and then claims responsibility for the work via Twitter.

TT Computer Society founding director Dev Anand Teelucksingh, who posted early on Thursday morning about the intrusions on the organisation’s website, described the project as a “cookie-cutter operation.” Teelucksingh believes the operation is working out of Brazil with a focus on anti-establishment hacks and an eye on fame.

This hacker takes advantage of vulnerabilities in web server software that have not been patched or updated quickly enough. The local exploit was done by taking advantage of a vulnerability in installations of Windows Server 2012 software. This demonstrated weakness of so many government websites suggests an unacceptably lax approach to monitoring for successful digital intrusions and more worryingly, a disturbing tardiness in taking proactive measures to harden digital attack surfaces on our globally accessible web presence.

Minister of National Security Stuart Young was quick to reassure the country that these hacks had not compromised internal records or processes, but the warning from the hacker community is quite clear, prepare or lament. AG Faris Al-Rawi stepped in to reassure the public that the Office of the Attorney General’s “data systems are protected and not open to exposure.” Then he proceeded to slip in a wildly irrelevant political dig by noting that the hack was a “less insidious attack than Cambridge Analytica proved to be.”

The danger of indulging in strawman arguments with cybersecurity matters is in muddying understanding by suggesting that Cambridge Analytica’s social engineering is equal to the targeted probing of the digital defences of this country’s ICT assets.

They are not and doing so suggests that all is well when our sluggish approach to this cybersecurity attack proved to be lax by any international measure.

TT should not be coming from so far behind on matters of cybersecurity. The warnings have been made at many different levels by regional technology experts. Today’s home page defacement and text insertion is tomorrow’s Sony hack, which cracked open and publicly distributed that company’s corporate secrets and intellectual property.

We are keen to talk about cybersecurity, but the evidence of last week suggests that it’s time to press that old talk into a more digitally secure reality.

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