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Ransomware attack hits Palau anew


By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Koror— Palau has been hit by another ransomware attack, compromising a data server for the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, the Digital Residency Office reported today.


The digital office said the new cyberattack, the second to hit Palau this year, was discovered at 11 a.m. on July 2. Digital experts found the data encrypted with ransomware.


“There was no impact to, or interruptions of, operations at the Palau International Airport,” Jay Hunter Anson, director of the digital office, said in a press release.


Anson said initial investigations located a ransom note. "However, no government officials have been contacted to negotiate a ransom,” he said.

Ransomware is malware designed to block an organization’s access to files on their computer by encrypting the data. Cyber-attackers demand ransom payment for the decryption key, pushing the victim into paying to regain access to their files.

“The Ministry of Finance ISSS team is working with outside cybersecurity firm and law enforcement to determine the specifics of the incident, and we will provide more information when we can,” he added.


Palau first experienced a major ransomware attack in March, crippling the government’s financial management system and prompting the Ministry of Finance to process payroll manually.


During a trip to Japan in June, President Surangel Whipps Jr. attributed the cyberattack to China, noting that it took place shortly after Palau signed a new 20-year economic and security deal with the United States under the Compact of Free Association.

"China wants to weaken those relationships, show our vulnerability, and what a great way to do it by hacking our system," he told reporters in Tokyo.

In the Pacific Security Outlook Report for 2023 and 2024, the Pacific Islands Forum noted that Pacific island nations are becoming more vulnerable to cyber-intrusions amid the changing cyber environment.

While new technologies are emerging, the Pacific island region faces a broader range of cyber threats, some of which the region is not currently well-placed to address.

"Pacific countries continue to have varying levels of cybersecurity maturity, with many poorly postured to mitigate or respond to cyber threats," the report said.

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