Police investigating TSTT cyber attack independently

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Independent Senator Paul Richards at the Red House. – Photo by Jeff K Mayers

THE police are conducting their own investigation into the October 9 cyber attack on the Telecommunications Services of TT (TSTT).

They are not involved in the internal probe which the company is conducting into that incident.

Head of the police cyber and social media unit Supt Amos Sylvester made these comments to members of the Parliament’s Social Services and Public Administration Committee on Monday.

Committee chairman, Independent Senator Dr Paul Richards, Sylvester whether TSTT reported the attack to the police when it happened.

“A report has been made to us at the end of the day,” Sylvester said.

“That’s an interestingly guarded response,” replied Richards.

Sylvester said, “In the beginning a report was not made. However as the situation unfolded more and more, a report was made to the TT police service (TTPS).”

Richards asked if the police were part of the internal investigation being conducted by TSTT into the incident.

Sylvester replied, “The TTPS has launched its own investigation into the matter but we are not part of the internal investigation.”

Speaking in the Senate on November 7, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales said Government had mandated TSTT’s board of directors to conduct a thorough and independent investigation into this incident.

The board, he continued, has taken steps towards facilitating the start of the probe.

Gonzales said, ” Additionally, TSTT is still in the process of evaluating all aspects of the attack, including the validation of all reported information in the public domain, that is the personal data of all our citizens, inclusive of members of the Cabinet and parliamentarians.”

That exercise is being done on a customer by customer basis.

As the results of the investigation become available, Gonzales promised “to provide further clarity on this ongoing situation to the national community.”

Referring to recent incidents where certain private sector companies were victims of cyber attacks, Richards asked whether such companies report these incidents to the police.

Sylvester said this did not always happen.

He told committee members that some companies are reluctant to do so out of fear of losing customers.

“Everybody is focused on their public image.”

Richards replied, “That’s tomorrow’s headline.”

In response to Richards’ question about the police launching an investigation into cyber attacks on a private entity based on complaints from members of the public, Sylvester said the police could not always act solely on such information.

“For some offences, we need the victim.”

He said the police are hard pressed to investigate an incident at an entity, if that entity publicly says no incident has happened.

“They continue that line until they can say ‘no’ no more.”

National Security Ministry Cyber Security Incident Response Team (TT-CSIRT) manager Angus Smith said TT-CSIRT has done a number of assessments of state entities and has other assessments ongoing with others.

The former includes the Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs, Works and Transport Ministry and the Trade and Industry Minister.

The latter includes the Office of the Prime Minister, Board of Inland Revenue, Education Ministry and all five regional health authorities.

Smith said TT-CSIRT was never engaged by TSTT for such services.