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PM Gonsalves’ visit could have sparked website hack – Moroccan authorities

PM Gonsalves’ visit could have sparked website hack – Moroccan authorities

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Although unconfirmed, it is suspected that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves’ visit to Morocco in March may have prompted the hacking of our Government’s website.

According to Minister of Foreign Affairs Camillo Gonsalves, Moroccan authorities said that the PM’s visit {{more}}was widely reported in Morocco’s media, and may well have caught the eye of the hacker, who operates under the pseudonym ‘Moroccanwolf’.

The attack, which happened on Sunday, May 3, disabled the homepage of the Government’s website (www.gov.vc), but according to the Minister, did not compromise other elements of the servers.

“His visit may have precipitated the interest in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and the hack obviously came after his visit there,” said Gonsalves. “I cannot say that there is a causal relationship between those two things, but I’m simply saying that they occurred in reasonable proximity to one another.”

The Minister of Foreign Affairs also noted that the timing of the hack seemed more than coincidental, because it was the day before the launch of the Government’s new website and portal.

However, he explained that because of the work being done to the website to have it completed on time, some security features were relaxed to enable employees to work on the website from home, as well as in the office.

“We believe it was in that period when we were transitioning from the old to the new website there were certain lapses in our security procedures… some of the lapses were technological in nature, some of the lapses were of the nature of human error.”

Gonsalves further explained: “While the hacking was successful on May 3, the attempts to break in to the system actually began on April 24.”

According to Gonsalves, this particular technique used is known in the technological world as a ‘brute force attack’ – where a website’s servers are bombarded, from multiple computers, with attempts to compromise its security.

Reviews of the website logs show that the hacker employed the use of several IP addresses, which was most likely used to disguise the true location of the computer used to hack into the Government website.

“There’s a hacking community out there – they hack websites all around the world. A lot of them do it just for the credit of it… they brag and they list the websites and the links that they hacked.”

Gonsalves said that his team of experts discovered an online list of compromised websites that ‘Moroccanwolf’ claims to have infiltrated, and our Government’s website was one of them.

“This lends credence to the belief that this was a hacker who has been hacking around the world for the credit of it, more so than for the ideology of it…”

He also noted that several other regional websites have been hacked in recent times, including the tourism website of the Bahamas.

IT experts from Taiwan are currently analyzing the website logs and have identified flaws in the website’s security, which will be patched, and used to develop improved security protocols to improve future security of the website.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also discussed the matter with the US State Department because of the “radical Islamist propaganda” that was posted on the homepage during the hack.

“They are doing their own information gathering.”

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