Govt. on alert about cyber attack

By Sina Filifilia Seva’aetasi ,

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Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i, has assured that the government is aware and is being proactive to ensure a “safer Samoa.”

Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i, has assured that the government is aware and is being proactive to ensure a “safer Samoa.” (Photo: Samoa Observer / File)

A computer virus is crippling computers worldwide and has put over 120 countries on high alert. Samoa is not immune.

The virus known as “WannaCry” has brought factories, large corporations and even government institutions to a grinding halt. 

The malware is delivered as a Trojan through a loaded hyperlink that can be accidentally opened by a victim through an email, advert on a webpage or a Dropbox link. 

Once it has been activated, the programme spreads through the computer and locks all the files with the same encryption used for instant messages.

Following the attack, the victim’s original files are copied and then erased.  

The infected computers wallpaper demand payment for the files to be returned. 

In Samoa, the Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i, has assured that the government is aware and is being proactive to ensure a “safer Samoa.” 

“Any cyber activity nowadays in any jurisdictions is a very serious issue,” said the Minister. 

“Therefore the Government is not taking any cyber related issue lightly. With the Government drive to digital economy, it is also a challenge for Government to ensure that we put in place the relevant but state of the art technology and necessary skills required to counter any cyber threat/attack.

“The Government with the launching of its National Cybersecurity Strategy 2016-2021 late last year, is working closely with all relevant stakeholders including our overseas partners/donors in the implementation of this strategy,” he added. 

“One key outcome of this Strategy is the planning and establishment of a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). 

“This special unit/authority will deal mainly with all cyber activities (crimes, attacks, security, warning, alerts, etc). For the time being, the Government is aware of these attacks that affected larger markers. For the case of Samoa, we rely heavily on all Internet Service Providers(ISPs), who have invested a lot of dollars in their critical infrastructures and systems in place to have all the necessary safeguards/systems/programs and right capacities to prevent Samoa and its people from such activity. 

“It is also the role of all Government ICT Officials within each Government Office to inform staff of any potential threats, whether virus, malware, DOS attack, etc. and advise of basic steps to take when receive anonymous emails, etc. It should also be the role of all Internet providers and IT solutions Companies to their corporate business partners and their customers.”

Afamasaga stated that should the virus reach our shores, the government has the capacity to contain the virus. 

“We do have the capacity in our Tier 1 Private Sector Companies that operates and maintain our gateways to the outer world,” he said. 

“We also have the capacity within our Government Ministries and Offices as Tier 2 of filtering and monitoring when it passes through from our Providers.

We also worked in partnership with the Transnational Crime Unit(AFP), Australia Federal Police (AFP) and our local police force in all cybercrime activities. 

“In addition, Government of Samoa build a genuine relationships with the Government of New Zealand and Australia when it comes to cyber-crime matters. All these governance structures and partnerships is built upon goodwill to ensure we have a SAFER SAMOA Online.”

According to Afamasaga, there has been no reports of “WannaCry” on island but has already issued warnings to take extra precaution , especially when receiving suspicious emails.   

“We have no reports yet from our ISPs or any individual,” he said.  

“However we cannot sit around and wait until it hits us, therefore, warning/notice email has been circulated by individual Ministries/Offices to their respective Staff to take basic steps when received any anonymous email with attachments and directions of any unknown links.

Government Ministries through their IT Divisions is also advised to publish notice on their websites, Facebook page and intranet pages for information.”

“Government Ministries has issued a warning and notice to all their staff in relation to this particular ramsonware. We have also asked our ISPs to ensure they do the same for all their corporate clients and customers whether via a broadcasting email or on their websites.”

“ Also notices and warnings has been circulated around on several forums and online groups.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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