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20 June, 2024
 
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Lawmaker insists secret funds were paid to hackers

Cypriot MP not buying ransom payment denials, wants officials to come clean on intelligence funds

Newsroom

Recently hacked data from Cyprus’ land registry and the state’s flagship university were back in the news this week, after a lawmaker said he had been told that millions of secret money was paid to cyber attackers, an allegation denied by officials.

Lawmaker Alecos Tryfonides told reporters on Thursday and again on Friday that he had credible information about secret funds up to €4 million that was paid to unknown hackers in order to regain access to stolen data.

Earlier this year the notorious Medusa ransomware gang asked for ransom following a cyberattack on the Open University Cyprus’ digital platforms, while the University of Cyprus and the Land Registry department were also attacked around the same time, while the defence ministry was also targeted.

Cyprus Police at the time said no ransom would be paid in the case of Open University Cyprus, but it was not clear whether ransom had been paid in other cases.

Tryfonides says he has raised the issue with state agencies and further believes his information from multiple internal sources is reliable

Tech minister Philippos Hadjizacharias at the time told reporters that Land Registry servers had been shut down as a precaution due to a water leak at the Finance Ministry building, where network equipment had been stored in the basement.

Hadjizacharias told Politis radio on Friday that no ransom money was ever paid, citing information provided during a House watchdog committee hearing on Thursday.

Tryfonides, who also spoke on Politis radio, said Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides told the committee that he had not come across any money paid to hackers.

But the MP from DIKO, a centrist party of the coalition government, was not completely convinced and went on to hint at secret funds that were outside the scope of any audit.

“The auditor general told us there were no secret funds to pay for expenses except in one department, the Cyprus Intelligence Service,” the MP said.

Tryfonides cited a special law on the books that blocks the auditor general from checking the use of secret intelligence funds, adding that KYP financial dealings were above scrutiny even from the parliament.

Hadjizacharias dismissed any allegations that ransom had been paid, telling the same Politis radio program that nobody brought up the issue during the committee hearing.

“No ransom money was paid and I want to believe that the matter is now closed,” Hadjizacharias said.

Asked by the radio host whether officials would have admitted publicly that they ever paid hackers, Hadjizacharias said the person carrying out the payment ought to be the one to tell the public about it.

Tryfonides said he never brought up the issue during the hearing but clarified that he had told reporters he believed his information from multiple internal sources on the issue was reliable.

“As a member of parliament, I raised the issue with state agencies and I believe the information we have is reliable until and when it gets refuted, that is, if it ever gets refuted,” the MP said.

Tryfonides said he told guests at the hearing that the members of the public have the right to know and warned them that people will hold them accountable over payment denials, as he recounted one official during the session who said “for goodness sake, how could the state ever pay this money?”

The MP says other lawmakers have the same information but clarified they are not fellow members on the same committee.

TAGS
Cyprus  |  hacker  |  ransom  |  cyber security  |  police  |  KYP  |  intelligence service  |  Medusa

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