Five months of Vanuatu court data lost in ransomware attack

Vanuatu Cyber Security (Photo: ITU)

2022 was a solid year for the Vanuatu Courts, but the unexpected ransomware attack on the Vanuatu Government network impacted the courts and other government agencies, preventing access to their systems over two months and resulted in five months’ worth of data loss.

Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek revealed this to distinguished guests, including Head of State Nikenike Vurobaravu, Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Lands Sato Kilman, and Justice Minister John Still Tari Qetu, during the 2023 official opening of the Courts of Vanuatu last week.

Nonetheless, the Courts were able to save some offline data from the court system, in regard to registration and completion of cases from the system as of the end of October 2022.

“During the months of November and December when the Government network was still offline and not accessible, we took steps to continue registering and completed cases manually,” CJ Lunabek said.

“So, we are pleased that we can still provide the people of Vanuatu with the majority of performance indicators.

“With respect to the international court performance indicators, this year we can provide number of filings, disposals, clearance rate, pending PDR, timeliness and attendance rate, working from the data we have available.”

The Chief Justice said overall, it will take them more than six months before they regain all data back into the system.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us this year 2023, we plan to get our court system back online by mid-February,” he said.

“Restore missing data in our court system and do data entry for registered cases since November 2022 back into the system.

“These means these cases will have new case numbers and therefore the Courts will be issuing notices to all parties and/or counsels with their new case numbers.

“Cases from June to October 2022 will be checked and updated in regard to case status, parties, listings, listing outcomes, charges, charge outcomes etc. and documents for cases in June to October 2022 will be rescanned.”

CJ Lunabek noted the back capture work will require additional funds and temporary resources, which the court will be working towards.

“All in all, the fact that we are still able to reflect on the majority of the courts’ performances despite the unforeseen challenge in November 2022, is a credit to the Chief Registrar and his team,” he said.

“As I have mentioned to you in previous years, our ability to present to you — the Government and the people of Vanuatu – our 2022 performance analysis within the month of January, is testament to the work of many.

“Additional judicial resources may be needed to maintain the good job done by the Supreme Court in 2022, particularly if criminal matters continue their steady increase from the Office of the Public Prosecutor.

“With Civil cases, we are still seeing higher than desired attendance rates due to completion of many old cases which has direct impact and cost to the parties.

“The Enforcement matters in the Supreme Court has seen Attendance rates similar to Civil and is till high, preferring to see lower rates and this will be looked at in the first part of the year.”

“We must then reflect back on these achievements, values, strengths and weaknesses. We must stand and continue with our vision of: ‘A judiciary that is independent, effective, efficient, and worthy of public trust and confidence, and a legal profession that provides quality ethical, accessible and cost-effective legal service to our people and is willing and able to answer the call to public service, said the Chief Justice.