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Premier upbeat on recovery from cyberattack

David Burt, the Premier, gives updates on recovery efforts after a sweeping cyberattack (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The cyberattack on Bermuda a week ago mirrored attacks on large corporations such as Sony, Twitter and Samsung, David Burt said, calling it “difficult to isolate what data may and may not have been compromised”.

The Premier again declined to specify whether hackers that brought down the Government’s IT and phone systems one week ago had demanded repayment.

However, he said the attack not only hit servers but “affected data on people’s desktops as well”. There were “a significant number of affected computers”, he said.

An unidentified team of international experts that the Premier said had experience in recent attacks was helping Government in “restoring our various systems and recovering certain data that may have been encrypted”.

At a press conference yesterday, Mr Burt confirmed that a cybersecurity incident response team was “absolutely” in place now, after national security minister Michael Weeks told Parliament in June that the island needed a specific task force.

He added: “We have been following the instant response plan that they have.”

Mr Burt was upbeat on the island’s recovery, saying the Government’s main phone switchboard would “certainly” be back online by Monday at the latest, and the E1 system handling government finances was “not impacted” in the attack.

The Transport Control Department was a priority, given the imminent end of the month, but vehicles were being relicensed, albeit manually.

The Premier emphasised that many details could not be divulged at present, as “we must assume that the persons who attacked the Government of Bermuda are listening to my comments”.

In that vein, Mr Burt declined to reveal the outside assistance brought in, saying it might alert the hostile groups as to the nature of the island’s restoration work.

However, he said the Government would be “completely transparent” once the investigation and forensic audit was finished.

“At the end, when we get system restoration, I have no doubt there will be an inquiry in Parliament.”

Extra costs incurred through the use of external consultants, and the likelihood Cabinet would need additional capital to “bolster our defences”, meant details on spending would have to be reported in the House of Assembly.

Mr Burt also revealed that the Government had doubled its spending on cybersecurity from “about three years ago”.

Asked about past attacks, he said the Government “subjected to a number of attacks just like any other business in Bermuda” but that they were growing “more complex and sophisticated”.

He said the IT system was put through stress tests on “a regular basis” but added: “We have to remember, stress tests are focused on external threats, the old type of threat.”

Mr Burt said the new threats employed social engineering tactics to deceive people into divulging information “to get through the back door”.

“This was something set up to spread through the network, sent out at night when people were leaving.

“Come the morning, all of a sudden they find their computers infected. That’s what has taken place.”

Mr Burt said it was highly unlikely that the Government would be unable to access its data, although such a scenario would be “challenging” or “catastrophic”.

He remained confident, as stated on Monday, that the island would be back to full functionality in as little as two weeks.

“Nothing that I have been provided with to date has changed,” he said.

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Published September 29, 2023 at 9:50 am (Updated September 29, 2023 at 9:50 am)

Premier upbeat on recovery from cyberattack

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