news 10 Jan 17

Montenegro on Alert Over Rise in Cyber Attacks

The government has vowed to take action after a report revealed a massive increase in the number and sophistication of hacking attacks in Montenegro in 2016 on portals and websites of state institutions.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
Photo: Pixabay.

After several pro-government portals and state institutions' websites went down during the October elections, Montenegro plans to tighten cyber security to protect the government's data and records.

The government in Podgorica plans to introduce mandatory training for all public employees and to establish a joint team to deal with such incidents.

New analysis by the Public Administration Ministry on the scale of the cyber threat to Montenegro, which BIRN has seen, shows that hacking attacks rose in 2016, and that abuse of personal accounts on social networks had become the most common problem.

According to the document, a significant increase in the number of attacks on information systems of state bodies and legal entities had been recorded and attacks were "much more serious and sophisticated".

Over 200 attacks on portals, state institutions, online fraud and misuse of personal accounts were reported in 2016, compared with just six in 2012.

"Web portals throughout Montenegro, including the portal of the Government of Montenegro,  were often the target of DDoS attacks," the document said.

Several pro-government portals also went down on election day and on numerous occasions during the campaign while the website of the Center for Democratic Transition watchdog, which monitored the elections, was also at times unreachable.

The authorities promised to investigate the background to all those attacks.

"The severity and sophistication of cyber-attacks affecting Montenegro during 2016 were reflected in the increased number of identified attacks on infrastructure and cyber espionage cases, as well as through phishing campaigns which targeted civil servants," the report said.

Amid reports that Russian hackers played a role in downing several websites on election day in Montenegro, the government adopted new measures to tighten up cyber security.

It said it would strengthen the capacity of police and intelligence services to prevent hacking after the attacks on election day highlighted how vulnerable the whole system is.

Montenegro's leaders have accused Russia of meddling in the election, which Moscow has denied. Some media closed to ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS, claimed the hacking attacks came from the same Russian hackers allegedly behind recent cyber attacks in the US.

In an article published on November 5, the US network NBC source claimed that in the run-up to the Montenegrin election, Russia secretly funneled money to anti-Djukanovic opposition parties and set up or co-opted friendly media outlets and "influencers" to undermine his pro-Western government. 





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