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23 June, 2021
 
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Official says hackers targeted vax website

Commissioner points to cyber attack behind sluggish behavior, innovation minister gives his own take

Newsroom

The Cypriot government says it believes hackers were behind a cyber attack against the state’s website for vaccine appointment registration, after users said they were having technical problems using the site.

Communications Commissioner George Michaelides said on Thursday that the state’s registration website for vaccine appointments had been targeted by online hackers in the last couple of days.

In the last two days there were reports of the online platform being down most of the time or users were often unable to book an appointment without having to wait a very long time in cue.

“The specific attack had to do with blocking access to those who wanted to use the website,” Michaelides said, adding there was no immediate indication of any privacy breaches.

Reports said people would skip work or task others trying to login on their behalf, in order to secure immediate access into the system rather than waiting and risk losing the vaccine of their choice

But local media have also been reporting this week on heavy traffic at the website with thousands of users competing in a matter of seconds to sign in early in the morning and throughout the day in order to have first dibs at appointment slots with the vaccine brand of their choice.

Additional reports said some people wrote on social media that they would skip work or have others also trying to login on their behalf, in order to secure immediate access into the system rather than waiting in cue for a long time and risk losing the vaccine of their choice.

Asked by a news anchor on a local television channel whether heavy traffic could have been mistaken for a cyber attack, Michaelides said they got information from the internet provider who said login attempts numbered “in the millions.”

The commissioner said his office was responsible over the safety of critical networks, with one of their duties being to take action either through European Union channels or other means within the country.

Innovation minister gives his own take

Prior to the hacking allegations, questions emerged in the local press over the website’s architecture but also the local company’s technical support capabilities.

Innovation Deputy Minister Kyriacos Kokkinos, who issued a statement on Thursday, said the website was designed under time pressure and with different criteria at the time.

“Other factors beyond our control, which were not possible to be foreseen, gave rise to new situations, to which our system could not respond in a sufficient manner,” Kokkinos said, adding that new efforts were underway through a multitude of solutions not restricted to the platform.

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