Amidst the recent public protest in several parts of Oromia, a cyber-attack from abroad was directed on the government’s central data system, Debretsion Gebremichael Minister of Communication and Information Technology (MoCIT) told MPs while presenting his ministry’s half-year performance to the House of People’s Representatives (HPR) on Tuesday.
The attackers have gained unauthorized access to the Weredanet web portal hosted on the central data system sited at the Office of the Prime Minister, Debretsion said.
“They hacked the Woredanet infrastructure and controlled it for sometime; however, Information Network Security Agency (INSA) and other relevant institutions have responded to the attack and regained control of the system with no damage,” Debretsion told the MPs.
The central data system is a host to several e-Government tools and other electronic information including the national biometric data mainly fingerprints collected by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).
A high security protection is being provided to the system and its server installed in the Office of the Prime Minister.
“They do this just to add fuel to the unrest in Oromia,” Debretsion explained. “Such a cyber-attack is not new to the country particularly at a time like this where the unrest provides a conducive situation,” he added.
According to the minister, the government has already identified the countries where the attacks have originated but he refrained from mentioning the country of origin or groups responsible.
Weredanet is a Wide Area Network that connects six hundred wereda administrative unites of Ethiopia throughout the country.
This infrastructure has facilitated the application of e-Government packages in the country. The package includes IP Voiceover telephones, Web services, messaging and video conferencing. It allows an easy and quick delivery of services to the public at the same time providing regional states with ease of communication with their respective wereda’s as well as with the central government.
The cyber-attack is part of the challenges his ministry has encountered during the half fiscal year. Meanwhile, frequent power cuts have been severe challenge for state monopoly Ethio Telecom, one of the institutions directly accountable to MoCIT.
Telecom service is now an issue of survival for the country since it is required in the area of tax administration, banking, dissemination of market information and many more, including creating connectivity among farmers, who are utilizing the technology beyond the purpose of strengthening social ties, he said.
“We can’t afford to continue down on such unpredictable power supply,” Debretsion underlined citing the need for an alternative source of power. Ethiopian Electric Power is another institution that falls under Debretsion’s purview.
The operator should install an alternative source of power for all its facilities and transmission towers throughout the country, the minister suggested. With regard to this, MoCIT and Ethio Telecom are now contemplating to undertake a detailed survey to decide on the type of renewable energy feasible for Telecom services.
Currently, Ethio Telecom has 42.3 million mobile, 893 fixed line and 12.4 internet data subscribers.