Marshalls internet service hit by cyberattack | News


MAJURO — When Internet systems in the Marshall Islands flashed in mid-March, the cause of the rollout outages was not immediately clear.

Domestic, business and government DSL and dedicated lines as well as 4G mobile services have become intermittent or non-functional, causing the National Telecommunications Authority or NTA to repeatedly issue messages notifying customers of “intermittent outages” and the “urgent maintenance” required to restore service.

NTA IT and security staff responded by working long nights to fix and restart systems. “But in the morning, we were getting the same error messages,” NTA CEO Tommy Kijiner, Jr. said Friday. After several days, it became apparent that the NTA systems were going down following a “distributed denial of service” or large-scale DDoS attack, he said.

Kijiner said that in 10 years with Marshall Islands Telecom, this was the second major cyberattack he’s seen on NTA’s systems. Who was behind? Kijiner said they’ll probably never know.

But past experience shows that when countries are at war, cyberattacks – particularly aimed at government and commercial systems in the United States – increase dramatically. “The only conclusion we have come to is that the attack was probably related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” he said.

The White House has warned government agencies and businesses to be on high alert for possible Russian cyber intrusions. Russian government hackers have been linked to major incidents of hacking the online operations of the US government and Fortune 500 companies over the past few years. But in today’s increasingly dangerous Internet environment, dozens of governments engage in hacking – the United States, China, North Korea, Iran and others – as well as thousands of people around the world.

A DDoS attack is normally engineered by hackers infecting thousands, if not millions, of computers with malware that responds to command computers, receiving orders in what is known as a “botnet”. The intent of a DDoS cyberattack is to prevent legitimate Internet traffic by flooding the targeted machine or system with an overwhelming volume of requests that overload the systems.

NTA services were interrupted intermittently over a period of 10 days. But Kijiner said late last week that NTA technicians believed they had now fixed the system and “there were no new signs that anything had breached our firewall,” he said. he declares.

“Several years ago, an NTA board member asked if we were worried about cyberattacks,” Kijiner said. “Yes, we are worried about that.” Perhaps because NTA is a small operation, they haven’t been the target of malicious attacks often. But, he said, “if hackers can hack into the US Department of Defense and the CIA, our firewalls are nothing.”

He added that one of the main challenges in safely using internet-connected devices is educating users about potential dangers. “At NTA, we probably haven’t done enough education for customers to understand that they shouldn’t click and open malicious emails,” he said, adding that the vast majority of users from NTA skip all security steps while online.

“If there was ever a ‘good place’ for hacking to happen, it’s the Marshall Islands,” Kijiner said. People will click on links that will immediately lead to infecting their devices and the networks they are connected to. This is one of the most effective methods used by hackers for “phishing” to infect computers that are part of a larger botnet for malicious activity on the Internet.

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