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OBA raises questions about leadership after cyberthreat

Missing in action: David Burt, the Premier, left the island for Washington on Thursday, less than 24 hours after government services had suffered a cyberattack (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The Premier has come under fire for his handling of a cyberattack that has crippled government services.

David Burt was also condemned for skipping the island to attend a black-tie function of high-flying power brokers in Washington while subordinates struggled with the crisis back home.

There has been further criticism of Mr Burt after he appeared to blame the security breach on Russian operatives without having sufficient information to justify that claim.

It is understood that the Premier left the island on Thursday evening — almost 24 hours after officials were first alerted to government computer systems having been compromised.

According to Royal Gazette sources, Mr Burt flew to Washington to attend an annual meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

At a press conference earlier on Thursday, he confirmed that he would be off island for Friday’s rescheduled sitting of the House of Assembly, but did not provide reasons why.

Last night, Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier who was standing in for the absent Mr Burt, issued an update on the crisis, claiming that the island had been hit by a “serious cyberattack”.

Mr Roban provided a shopping list of government services that were still operational, but did not give examples of services that had been hit by the attack. After 24 hours, the Gazette is still waiting for answers to questions, despite assurances from Mr Roban that the public would be informed of developments on a regular basis.

Today, Jarion Richardson, the Leader of the Opposition, questioned how the Premier could justify his absence.

Mr Richardson said: “The national security and immigration ministers must outline the contingencies in place to secure Bermuda’s borders and day-to-day life.

“Cyberattacks are nefarious, but most importantly, they are life-threatening. Modern security is entirely dependent on information technology.

“Radio communications between units, dispatching systems, intelligence-gathering and criminal records are all mission-critical systems. These include border controls such as stop lists. Our electronic border management system, the one that was ignored in place of outsourcing Travel Authorisation, is 100 per cent inoperable.

“Are any of these systems backed up? Have the hard copies been kept up to date? Oftentimes, the very manuals which outline crisis management and contingency operations are retained digitally.

“Where is the Emergency Measures Organisation? Is this not an emergency?

“This is not the time for ad hoc, unnamed committees but rather for the proven crisis management tools. This is not a matter of domestic government policy but international threat mitigation.

“The Opposition expects the frequency and seriousness of public briefings as if this was a hurricane. Anything less indicates that the same persons who have not protected us are in charge of saving us.

“If we cannot receive informative briefings due to legitimate security risks, then the Government can give the public, via the media, a brief of how each government department will maintain services.”

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Published September 23, 2023 at 7:04 pm (Updated September 24, 2023 at 8:27 pm)

OBA raises questions about leadership after cyberthreat

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