Ransomware Attack Wipes Out Four Months of Sri Lankan Government Data

Cyber Security Threat Summary:
Sri Lanka's government cloud system, Lanka Government Cloud (LGC), has fallen victim to a massive ransomware attack that began on August 26, 2023. The attack resulted in the encryption of LGC services and backup systems, affecting approximately 5,000 email addresses using the "gov[dot]lk" domain, including those of the Cabinet Office. While the system and backup were restored within 12 hours, data spanning from May 17 to August 26, 2023, was permanently lost due to the absence of backups for that period. The attack has highlighted security vulnerabilities in the outdated email application used by LGC, which had not been updated due to funding constraints and delays, (HelpNetSecurity, 2023).

Security Officer Comments:
The ransomware attack on Sri Lanka's government cloud system highlights the critical need for updated and secure IT systems in government. Outdated software, like Microsoft Exchange Version 2013, made the system vulnerable to attacks, revealing the importance of proactive cybersecurity investment. The loss of months' worth of data underscores the necessity of regular backups and disaster recovery planning.

Suggested Correction(s):
Backup your data, system images, and configurations, regularly test them, and keep the backups offline: Ensure that backups are regularly tested and that they are not connected to the business network, as many ransomware variants try to find and encrypt or delete accessible backups. Maintaining current backups offline is critical because if your network data is encrypted with ransomware, your organization can restore systems.

Update and patch systems promptly: This includes maintaining the security of operating systems, applications, and firmware in a timely manner. Consider using a centralized patch management system; use a risk- based assessment strategy to drive your patch management program.

Test your incident response plan: There's nothing that shows the gaps in plans more than testing them. Run through some core questions and use those to build an incident response plan: Are you able to sustain business operations without access to certain systems? For how long? Would you turn off your manufacturing operations if business systems such as billing were offline?

Check Your Security Team's Work: Use a 3rd party pen tester to test the security of your systems and your ability to defend against a sophisticated attack. Many ransomware criminals are aggressive and sophisticated and will find the equivalent of unlocked doors.

Segment your networks: There's been a recent shift in ransomware attacks – from stealing data to disrupting operations. It's critically important that your corporate business functions and manufacturing/production operations are separated and that you carefully filter and limit internet access to operational networks, identify links between these networks and develop workarounds or manual controls to ensure ICS networks can be isolated and continue operating if your corporate network is compromised. Regularly test contingency plans such as manual controls so that safety critical functions can be maintained during a cyber incident.

Train employees: Email remains the most vulnerable attack vector for organizations. Users should be trained how to avoid and spot phishing emails. Multi Factor authentication can help prevent malicious access to sensitive services.