Cyprus Mail

Cyberattacks are common, police chief says

file photo: a man types on a computer keyboard in warsaw in this february 28, 2013 illustration file pictu

Cyberattacks such as the one recently propagated against the land registry are fairly common, head of the police cybercrime division George Karkas said, speaking on CyBC radio on Tuesday.

Experts are still working on restoring the land registry’s electronic portal and bolstering its security, following the department’s system being hacked into with ransomware on Wednesday last week.

Ransomware, Karkas explained, is a form of malware designed to encrypt files on a device, making any files and the systems that rely on them inaccessible.

The legitimate users find themselves locked out of their files or their screen while malicious actors wait for a response to their demand for a ransom in exchange for restoring access.

Incidents of cyberattacks via ransomware on government departments, companies and individuals, are not infrequent or isolated occurrences, Karkas emphasised, referring to the latest incident in Cyprus—a foiled attack on the University of Cyprus on March 2.

In the past three years there have been 45 recorded incidents in Cyprus, Karkas said: 22 in 2020, 10 in 2021 and 13 in 2022.

Nonetheless, critical government infrastructures are well-protected through electronic back up procedures, Karkas went on to assure the public.

“It’s just that it takes time to restore systems,” Karkas said, adding that this could take up to several months in some cases.

Asked how easy it is to locate and arrest the perpetrators Karkas admitted that, while not impossible, it was a challenging task due to the dispersed international nature of such operations.

“Interpol needs to be involved and tracing the electronic pathways is time consuming,” Karkas explained.

The money demanded by the hackers does not go straight into a bank account, Karkas elaborated. Instead, it goes into specially set-up intermediate cryptocurrency platforms which facilitate the clearance of extorted funds.

One way to thwart such attacks is to track these platforms and take them down and this has been done, Karkas said.

Karkas urged the public to be vigilant and stressed that in the event of being victimised by a ransomware attack it is important to not comply with the extortion or get in touch with the criminals.

“There is no guarantee that the hackers will restore one’s system and getting in touch may embolden them to ask for more money or attack the same person or business again,” the police chief said.

Karkas advised diligent backup practices as a way to protect one’s business or personal computer systems, and noted the organisation No More Ransom as a resource for anyone who falls victim to such an attack.

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