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News"Massive" cyber attack crashes African Union's system

“Massive” cyber attack crashes African Union’s system

Cyber attackers prey on the African Union, resulting in the unscheduled suspension of its systems.

The Reporter got a copy of an internal memo that said an attack on the AU data center started last week, making services and applications unavailable.

Sources say that more than 200 corrupted devices have been found and are being cleaned up at a facility outside AU headquarters. The cloud-based data is secure, but staff were unable to access it.

According to a memo written by Monique Nsanzabaganwa (PhD), who is the deputy chairperson of the AU Commission, the “massive cyber-attack” began on March 3, 2023. This was followed by an emergency shutdown.

“The massive cyberattack has compromised a number of IT assets in our data center, which has rendered services and applications inaccessible. The attack has also compromised a number of user devices, both laptops and desktops, which necessitated the shutdown of the entire campus network to forestall further damage to healthy systems and devices,” reads the memo.

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AUC management and stakeholders have been collaborating to restore service. The Information System (MIS) management said that some applications are still working, and they asked employees to use mobile hotspots and/or internet dongles to connect to the systems that are still working.

The memo says that MIS’s disaster recovery system can bring back some of the lost data. All of the affected devices must be cleaned before they can access the internet again, the same source said.

Several AU employees told The Reporter that it’s been a week since they’ve been unable to use their work emails or the internet.

Nevertheless, they did not elaborate on whether the incident was the consequence of an external attack or an internal breakdown. Some have pointed to foreign elements, while others have pointed to a virus that got into AU’s system when it tried to navigate its way through Ethiopia’s internet shutdown.

“I could not access my email accounts and do tasks online. Several staff members are also staying at home because they don’t have an access. But few staff are able to access the organization’s system online, as there are departments that have survived the attack,” an employee at the AU, who requested anonymity, said.

Esther Azaa Tankou, Head of Information Division at the AUC, did not respond to The Reporter’s email or phone request. On a phone call with The Reporter, Wynne Musabayana, the AUC’s head of communication, neither confirmed nor denied the attack.

According to Molalet Tsedeke, the AU’s Media Center Coordinator, the institution is experiencing an IT system problem and is seeking to identify the root cause.

Officials at the Information Network Security Agency (INSA) did not respond to our queries, regardless of our repeated attempts.

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