Cyber security: Govt. hit by ransomware attack

November 28, 2023

Sri Lanka is currently facing a significant cybersecurity crisis due to a ransomware attack that has targeted critical government institutions. This incident has exposed the nation's digital vulnerabilities and has led experts to call for immediate and comprehensive cybersecurity reforms.

The attack involved malicious actors encrypting sensitive government data and demanding payment for its release. While the full extent of the damage is still uncertain, it highlights serious concerns about the security of vital government information.

Cybersecurity consultant Asela Waidyalankara expressed concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding the incident and the potential compromise of sensitive government data. This could have national security and even geopolitical implications, as ransomware attacks can cause significant disruptions and result in data loss.

Waidyalankara emphasized the importance of a nuanced and strategic approach to cybersecurity, including the need for a comprehensive national policy and strategy. He called for an inquiry to understand the reasons behind the attack and formulate effective policies to prevent future incidents.

One key issue highlighted is the lack of cyber security precautions, including the absence of backups and the need to adhere to data protection laws. Business Continuity Planning (BCP) was also emphasized to ensure quick recovery in case of a security incident.

Sri Lanka's Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) advised against paying ransoms, as there is no guarantee of data recovery. International collaboration is essential to address the aftermath of such attacks.

The Federation of IT Industry Sri Lanka stressed that cybersecurity must evolve as technology rapidly advances. Security by design, where security is integrated into applications from the start, is encouraged.

Despite the challenges, Sri Lanka has taken positive steps in the realm of cybersecurity, including the development of policies and the pending Cyber Security Act. Private sector initiatives, such as security operation centers, also reflect a growing recognition of the importance of cybersecurity in the digital age.

Overall, the ransomware attack serves as a reminder that cybersecurity is an ongoing process essential for the nation's digital future, requiring continuous monitoring and adaptation as technology evolves.
Addressing this challenge requires public-private partnerships, cybersecurity education, and capacity-building initiatives. Sri Lanka must be prepared collectively and led by strong political leadership to mitigate cyber threats effectively.

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