Vanuatu officials run government using typewriters and paper one month after cyberattack

The Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu still hasn’t restored its systems after a destructive attack at the beginning of November. As government sites and public services remain offline, civil servants and top officials are conducting operations the old way.

The government’s network, email, and websites were “compromised” when a malware attack caused significant disruptions and left some 314,000 people and 80 islands with little to no access.

Although the incident is attributed to November 5 by the government, a computer technician at the Office of the Government’s Chief Information Officer and a foreign diplomat told the Guardian that the attack took place on October 30.

Prior to that, there were signs of suspicious phishing activity in emails to the Ministry of Finance.

"We put in place the necessary decisions and so on to get it fixed, and the people are working on it, but it is a serious breach of our national security,” Vanuatu's new Climate Change Minister, Ralph Regenvanu, said.

To mitigate the incident, some offices began operating on Twitter and Facebook. Since Vanuatu’s services are significantly dependent on email, the attack disrupted the work processes of many public servants.

As a result, many offices are experiencing significant delays, forced to resort to pen and paper, private email accounts, and typewriters to run the government, hospitals, and schools.

Most tourism-related and civilian services, such as airline or hotel websites, continue functioning as normal.

The incident took place right after a new government, led by Prime Minister Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau, was sworn in.

The attack also comes amidst the increased cybercriminal activity in the region. As such, Australian Telstra experienced a data leak via a third party, Optus was hit by a cyberattack, with millions losing passport and driver's license numbers, and Medibank suffered a hack and subsequent data leak of about 9.7 million of its current and former customers.