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Vanuatu: Hackers strand Pacific island government for over a week

By Frances Mao

BBC News

Vanuatu's government has been knocked offline for more than 11 days after a suspected cyber-attack on servers in the country.

The hack has disabled the websites of the Pacific island's parliament, police and prime minister's office.

It has also taken down the email system, intranet and online databases of schools, hospitals and other emergency services as well as all government services and departments.

The shutdown has left the nation's population - about 315,000 people living across several islands - scrambling to carry out basic tasks like paying tax, invoicing bills and getting licences and travel visas.

Essentially anyone with a email or domain has been affected, locals told the BBC.

"Anyone who tried to do anything with the government knew the system was down," said Ginny Stein, an Australian journalist and communications consultant who spent years living in Port Vila, and left on Monday.

"My experience of trying to check out of the country... well they just couldn't operate. They were really struggling to get basic things done."

She described major delays to any applications to government as officials have resorted to manual systems and in many cases even shut up shop. "You'd walk into the offices and they were closed or they were turning you away saying 'come back next week maybe, but we don't know'," she said.

Still, government staff have done their best to keep things going - with some using their own personal emails and internet hotspots for essential work.

Instead of electronic transfers, people have been paid with cheques. One civil servant relayed the experience of walking from department to department to get the relevant checks and sign-offs on an application. Others have been taking notes manually.

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