TSTT’s chief financial officer Shiva Ramnarine says he is not to blame for the recent security breaches of the company’s systems. He has insisted he has fulfilled his responsibilities by providing the necessary approvals for the allocation of funding for IT security services.
Ramnarine’s defence comes in the wake of a major cyberattack on the local telecommunications company and the replacement of the company’s CEO, Lisa Agard.
In a pre-action protocol letter, Ramnarine’s attorneys Jagdeo Singh, Leon Kalicharan and Karina Singh warned of impending legal action against Communication Workers Union (CWU) general secretary Clyde Elder over statements implicating Ramnarine in the cyberattack on TSTT’s systems last month.
The letter referred specifically to statements Elder made about Ramnarine to local media outlets, which were also posted on social media between November 6 and 14. The letter said the republication of Elder's statements about the CFO was calculated to disparage the position he held at TSTT.
According to the letter, the statements suggested Ramnarine was partly to blame for the cyberattack. It also said they further suggested the CFO failed to deal with security issues surrounding cyberattacks, ignored the advice of TSTT’s IT department and refused to spend or allocate funding for security services or systems to prevent security breaches of the company’s network and equipment.
Singh said the statements lowered Ramnarine’s reputation and were understood to mean he should be suspended, sent on leave or dismissed ahead of any intended investigation into the recent cyberattacks.
The letter also said the offending statements were also understood to mean Ramnarine would wilfully or deliberately hinder any investigation, lacked competence and conducted himself contrary to the interests of TSTT and its stakeholders.
“We wish to make it pellucid that the proposed claimant has at all times fulfilled his responsibilities as per his remit as chief financial officer in providing the necessary approvals in the allocation of the necessary funding for IT security services and/or systems and in compliance with the appropriate procedures and processes.
“Our client has consistently and, as needed, approved all funding in relation to the procuring security services and systems in a timely manner. This consisted of initial approvals and any subsequent approvals for any additional resources needed in securing TSTT’s network and systems to protect against possible cyber attacks or security breaches. Those approvals were, at all times, followed through based on advice and proposals and or recommendations of the IT department.”
The letter also said, “The proposed claimant, therefore, categorically denies any failure and/or refusal to approve and/or cause delay and/or stoppage of any payment towards the funding of security services and systems during the relevant period of 2022/2023 and for any other period under his tenure.”
The letter said funding is allocated in a tiered process involving several departments and approvals.
“The simplicity (with) which you make reference to TSTT’s existing and/or implemented security infrastructure is a wholly inaccurate representation of TSTT's current infrastructure. There are different aspects/phases of implementation of its security systems.”
The letter further noted that statements suggesting Ramnarine was responsible, together with other executives, for misleading the Public Utilities Minister and the public weeks after the malware incursion were totally false.
Singh said no attempt was made to verify the accuracy of the damaging statements.
The letter also said, “The measures taken by TSTT relating to the cyber attack were within the remit of the board, the executive officials and the Minister of Public Utilities which were continually being addressed.”
Elder was accused of giving interviews which displayed a reckless and wanton disregard for the truth and of knowing that the statements he made were false but were made “with the calculated belief that it would benefit the union’s membership through the scandalising of TSTT’s senior management directly or indirectly involved in the recent cyberattack and serve to effectively influence viewers or readers “
The attorneys said Ramnarine intends to seek an injunction to prevent further statements from being made or those already made from being repeated as well as damages for slander.
TSTT’s CFO also wants an unqualified proper apology and an undertaking not to repeat the false allegations.
Elder was given seven days to acknowledge the letter and 14 days to respond.
On October 9, TSTT was hacked, according to reports. The public was notified of the cyberattack on October 27. It was announced by international hackers RansomExx, which said six gigabytes of data had been stolen from TSTT.
The company issued a statement on the cyberattack on October 30. Three days later, on November 3, TSTT issued a second release confirming the RansomExx claims. Also on October 30, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales denied the breach, but later admitted he did not get proper information from TSTT.
On Tuesday, TSTT’s CEO, Lisa Agard, was replaced. Gonzales said he had instructed the TSTT board to have an independent investigation done.