Smith: Cyber-attack costs ZNS hundreds of thousands of dollars

Smith: Cyber-attack costs ZNS hundreds of thousands of dollars

Minister says authorities responding to increased threats of cyber attacks


NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Monday’s cyber-attack of the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas will cost ZNS hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to ZNS Executive Chairman Mike Smith, who said the corporation’s systems were still impacted as of yesterday evening.

Speaking with Eyewitness News Online, Smith advised that it is difficult to put a dollar value on the “significant loss” of data, archived footage and programming, which has been the culmination of years of work.

“We have some duplication of some of it, but there has been a significant loss to this point, [especially] if we can’t get back in the server,” Smith said.

Asked about the cost of the breach, Smith said, “It is very difficult to tell because some programs were very expensive; some not expensive; and then here is the programming that we bought.

“Then, there is the historical aspect of it. There is the archives aspect of it.

“To put a figure is quite a bit of money and time and effort over the years you know.

“It is difficult to put a figure on it, but it is certainly hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Smith noted that ZNS has also had to replace expensive programs, rebuild servers and internal systems using back-ups where possible.

Around noon Monday, ZNS was shut of its internal networks after hackers, believed to be internationally-based, infiltrated the corporation’s servers and demanded $50,000.

After some initial correspondence with the hackers, the demand was brought down to the $18,000 in bitcoin, a cryptocurrency.

Yesterday, Smith said ZNS has no intention of paying the demand and will not negotiate with criminals.

“We are not going to pay the ransom, so that’s out,” he said.

“That means we probably won’t be able to access those servers, so we are in the process of creating a new server, and also setting up additional computer support for radio.

“We have a fairly good amount of material that has not been lost, so television will not be as badly impacted as we initially thought; radio is a work in progress, and we will improve that…”

Accounts and information related to employees were not breached, Smith confirmed.

ZNS aired its national newscast at 7 p.m. Monday, but Smith indicated that even equipment such as the teleprompter was impacted.

He said yesterday that ZNS has been able to provide its radio and television services, but not without some challenges.

He also advised that the corporation was in the process of reviewing several proposals from cybersecurity firms as part of a wider process to immediately shore up security to prevent any further breaches.

Police have launched an investigation into the cyber incident and were being assisted by international partners, according to officials.

The infiltration of the state-owned corporation has raised questions about the security secureness of other government entities and departments.

Outside Cabinet, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said authorities were on top of the incident, but the security breach and hack of the radio servers was a first for the country.

“This is the world that we are living in today,” he said.

“This is certainly the first of its kind that would have been reported here in The Bahamas where we had the radio servers of ZNS hacked with ransomware.

“This is a common occurrence now around the world now and the police are currently investigating this particular incident.”

The minister said as the government reviews it’s security protocols to protect sensitive data against cybercriminals, “this is something in our planning that we have certainly been anticipating and as an organization we’re working assiduously to equip the police force for these modern-day challenges.”

According to the minister, national security and law enforcement officials were in discussions with their international partners concerning the cyber incident and how to resolve the matter.

He added, “The police are on top of it.”

Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle, the head of the Anti-Corruption Branch and Financial Investigation Unit, revealed to Eyewitness News Online this week that cybercrimes against businesses in The Bahamas in 2018 netted more than $3.5 million.