More than 85 per cent encrypted, blocked GEBE data said secured

More than 85 per cent encrypted,  blocked GEBE data said secured

~ GEBE urged to reopen as soon as possible ~

PHILIPSBURG--Over 85 per cent of the encrypted and blocked data of utilities company GEBE, which was hit by the BlackByte ransomware virus on March 17, has been “safeguarded” and “secured.”

  Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs reported on the matter during the live Council of Ministers press briefing on Wednesday. She said a meeting was held between GEBE and ministers who could have been present on short notice. During this meeting, ministers received an update on the matter. GEBE was urged to reopen its doors as soon as possible. Discussions were also had on clients who are without access to online banking, also being able to make payments. “What we can assure you is that proper investigation is being carried out. Almost all of the information has been secured. It was mainly on the administrative side that the virus was able to infiltrate,” she explained.

  Reports were also received from all government-owned companies. “There is to be a consortium that will ensure that the levels of protection continue to be ramped up and monitored… We live in a technological world and we can continue to expect that attempts will be made.”

  She said vigilance is needed to continuously upgrade systems and ensure that persons working within government systems receive the necessary training. This will be the general focus across the board including in government to safeguard systems and information based on privacy rights.

  Hacking “is just a business,” perpetrated to get funds. “At the end of the day, we will do our due diligence as Shareholder to ensure that companies remain protected and we are very happy to know that online payments were made and suggestions were made also to be able to facilitate cash payment.”

  She indicated that discussions were had to ensure that persons who do not have online banking can also make payments. “We look forward to that being able to be done, but for the most part they have been able to safeguard more than 85 per cent of whatever data had been encrypted and blocked.”

  As for who will be held accountable for the cyberattack, Jacobs said this can only be determined once the investigation has been completed.

  In response to a question on whether the information on clients had been compromised, she made clear that this was not the case. “The securities that were in place did not allow for any access to the information that even [though – Ed.] it’s encrypted, it’s blocked, it wasn’t necessarily leaked anywhere. So, it is just a matter of not being able to use it locally. No one else has access to that information so there should be no fear as far as what we know,” she said.

  “They do have backups of the latest payments at receivables, etc., so persons wouldn’t be cut [disconnected].”       

  It was advised that clients make payments online based on their last bill. GEBE was also informed to reopen their doors as soon as possible. “That is one of the areas that we felt that we should have had a contingency plan to be able to still receive the payments, as they are aware that on the technical side, there were no infiltrations… It will take a lot of hard work, but at the end of the day, persons should be able to know what their bills are.” She urged persons who put aside funds for their bill, to ensure that the funds remain there so that they have access to it when the time comes to pay the bill.

  Asked whether part of the ransom was paid given that over 85 per cent of the encrypted data has been retrieved, Jacobs said: “That information I cannot mention at this time. Hopefully, when everything is finalised and we have a final report on the investigation that can be divulged.”

The Daily Herald

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