After a sophisticated cyber-attack brought Albanian government and citizen services to a halt over the weekend, the government has sought to reassure the public that there has been no security breach or lasting damage.
On Sunday (17 July), the Albanian National Agency for Information Services was forced to shut all online public services and government websites because of the attack. On Monday, the government released a statement detailing the full scope of the matter.
“The methods used by these malicious actors are similar to [attacks] observed in the international cyberspace…Fortunately, the rapid detection and response to these attacks meant that government systems emerged unscathed,” the government wrote in its Monday statement.
The statement also clarified that all information systems are backed up and secure and will be restored to full functionality, although it did not specify when. They also said that the systems were not actually breached, meaning personal data should not have been impacted.
In the media, portals supportive of the government have speculated that the attack came from Russsia, while others have said Iran due to the government’s sheltering of a dissident group of Iranians in a camp not far from the capital of Tirana.
The shutdown has affected the websites of parliament and the prime minister’s office, as well as e-Albania—the government portal that all Albanians, as well as foreign residents and investors, use to access a slew of public services.
The ministry of education had to pause online registration for school children, while the ministry of foreign affairs was forced to halt all online services at its consulates abroad.
As of 1 May, e-Albania has taken on the role of many institutional counter services from across the country. Matters such as residency, tax, and business activities can now, in theory, all be carried out via the portal rather than face-to-face in institutions.
Albania has been rocked by a number of data protection and privacy scandals in the last 18 months, including leaks from government institutions that have seen the names, phone numbers, car registration plates, employers, salaries, and more, in the public realm.
In January 2022, the government signed an agreement with US Company Jones International to strengthen the country’s digital security systems. At the time, the company’s founder James L.Jones said, “Albanians must be responsible for their own safety. We look forward to working in accordance with your priorities to liberate Albania from the worry of cyberattacks.”
By Alice Taylor and Barbara Halla | EURACTIV.com and exit.al