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Massive ransomware attack on state email domain

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All Government offices using the “gov.lk” email domain, including the Cabinet Office, have lost data from May 17 to August 26, 2023, after a massive ransomware attack, the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) has confirmed.

The virus could have affected around 5,000 email addresses, ICTA CEO Mahesh Perera said, admitting that there was no offline backup for around two-and-a-half month’s worth of data. Since the online backup system had also been corrupted, users lost emails for that period. The Cabinet Office is among the entities in the Lanka Government Network (LGN). It uses the [email protected] email domain.

Following the attack, ICTA is taking measures to start daily offline backup and to upgrade the relevant application to the latest version which has stronger defences against virus attacks. And the Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team (SLCERT) is working closely with ICTA to try and retrieve the lost data, Mr. Perera said.

The LGN is the Government-owned private network that was introduced to connect Government organisations in what the ICTA maintains is “a cost-effective and secure manner”.

The service is being provided from 2007, Mr. Perera said. “Initially, we used Microsoft Exchange Version 2003,” he explained. “The email facility was given to Government offices. In 2014, it was upgraded to Microsoft Exchange Version 2013. This was in use till the attack. But that version is now obsolete, outdated and vulnerable to various types of attacks.”

One gov.lk domain user said that their official email had been receiving suspicious links over the past few weeks and that someone may have clicked one, triggering the ransomware attack. ICTA had planned from 2021 to upgrade the email facility to the latest version but had been constrained by fund limitations and certain previous board decisions, the CEO said.

With the ransomware attack on the morning of August 26, the site was completely encrypted. While ICTA maintains several backups in the LGN cloud, the encryption process that corrupted the server replicated to the online backup systems.

The system was restored within 12 hours of the attack and the backup was also brought back, but without two-and-a-half months of storage. “As a result of this time gap, certain old emails were lost but the service was restored,” Mr. Perera said.

ICTA continues to receive complaints from users seeking full access to the service. The reason for not maintaining regular backup was attributed to “administrative problems”.

Meanwhile, like many other offices, ICTA has been affected by the brain drain triggered by the economic crisis and is recruiting new staff.

(The Sunday Times)

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India relaxes onion export ban for Sri Lanka and UAE

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India has lifted its ban on onion exports, permitting the shipment of 10,000 metric tonnes to Sri Lanka, announced the Indian High Commission in Colombo. 

This move, aligned with India’s Neighbourhood First policy, aims to support Sri Lanka during its Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations.

The decision comes as a relief for Sri Lanka, where onion prices surged following export bans imposed by both India and Pakistan.

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade has issued a gazette notice granting permission to National Co-operative Exports Limited for the export of 10,000 MT of onions to Sri Lanka.

Furthermore, the UAE has been granted permission to import an additional 10,000 MT of onions, in addition to the 24,400 MT already permitted. This decision is significant given the substantial Indian and South Asian expat community residing in the UAE.

The relevant gazette notification is given below.

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Expressways generate whopping income during Avurudu season

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The expressways have generated an income of Rs. 159,802,950 from April 10 – 13, Road Development Authority (RDA) says.

According to the Director of Expressway Operation Maintenance and Management Division – R.A.D. Kahatapitiya.

Over 4,350,000 vehicles have used the expressways during this period, he has added.
As many as 366,000 vehicles have used the expressways during this three-day period.

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Special transport arrangements to those returning to Colombo

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Special train services are in operation from this evening (April 14) for people to return to Colombo after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year holidays, the Railways Department said.

Deputy General Manager of Sri Lanka Railways –  N.J. Indipolage stated that accordingly, eight additional train journeys will be in operation from Badulla, Galle and Beliatta railway stations to Colombo Fort.

The Department of Railways also mentioned that the office trains will be operational as per usual from April 16.

Meanwhile, the National Transport Commission has said that special buses will be deployed to transport those who had gone to their hometowns during the New Year.
Bus associations have also stated that buses to Colombo will be operational.

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