Public Prosecutor’s (OM) submits GEBE hack report to Government

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PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten (KPSM) – The Prosecutor’s Office OM SXM, together with the Police Force of Sint Maarten KPSM, has delivered its report on the March 2022 ransom ware attack (in Dutch: Bestuurlijk rapportage ransomwareaanval) on utilities company N.V. GEBE to the Government of Sint Maarten, the shareholder of this public-owned entity.
The report is based on findings from the “Freya” investigation, which includes the report and interviews with GEBE staff members and other relevant information from the Kingdom Cooperation Team RST.

The purpose of submitting the “Freya” investigation report to the St. Maarten government centers on the security risks that have occurred at GEBE as a result of the March 17 incident. The report is also intended to enable the authorities (read government and its related entities) to take appropriate measures.

During the investigation, OM SXM and KPSM were unable to establish sufficiently what the actual danger to Sint Maarten has been due to the hack. Due to NV GEBE’s non-cooperative attitude, there had been no access to the hacked computer system at any time. Therefore, the “Freya” investigation could not establish what were the exact risks for the country and clients of GEBE; who was behind the attack, and the dangers for the future.

On 17 March 2022, a cyber-attack was discovered on GEBE. A message in the computer system indicated that the company had been hacked by “Black Byte”, an organization that focuses on stealing and encrypting data, mainly from companies (ransom ware). As a result of the hack, the entire customer database, financial data and other business data was encrypted.

Sint Maarten’s vital infrastructure is the foundation of society. The interconnectivity, small scale and dependence on country’s infrastructure mean that the failure of vital infrastructure, such as the only energy company, has an immediate social impact.
Recently, two major cyber-attacks have hit the vital infrastructure of Sint Maarten. In September 2021, there was a cyber-attack on the Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten (CBCS) and on GEBE. In the past (2018), the Government of Sint Maarten suffered a ransom ware attack whereby the public tasks could not be performed temporarily.

Ransom ware or hostage software is the most common and lucrative form of cybercrime worldwide. Attacks occur daily and the ransoms demanded regularly run into millions of dollars. The extortion of organizations earns criminal groups hundreds of millions of dollars. It causes great damage to the victims and has a socially disruptive effect.