SEPA cyber attack recovery could take ‘two years’, says organisation’s boss
The recovery of IT systems for Scotland’s environment watchdog could take ‘two years’, according to the organisation’s chief executive.
Terry A’Hearn, who runs the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), has told BBC news that it may be another 24 months before the full restoration of the agency’s computer systems.
Sepa was locked out of its network on Christmas Even after falling victim to ransomware gang Conti, and has been in recovery mode ever since.
Mr A’Hearn, who chaired emergency meetings in the aftermath of the cyber attack, and was supported by police and cyber agencies, has spoken publicly several times about the incident.
In his latest interview he told the BBC: “I think this a process that will take a year or two.
“We had reform aims anyway, we were going to build a new IT system progressively over five or six years.
“This is an opportunity we didn’t want provided by criminals, but we’ve decided to fast-track that and will build that in one or two years.”
Sepa refused to cooperate with the hackers – who are thought to be Russia-based and have a string of other victims including Aspire, a homeless and housing support agency in Glasgow. The health service in Ireland also recently fell prey to the gang. As a ‘punishment’, the gang dumped a cache of Sepa’s commercial data on its dark web blog, which included private conversations between senior management and some staff grievances.
Mr A’Hearn added: “If we had paid then we would have increased the risk for everyone else.”
The public body’s core services – including flood forecasting and protection – have been reinstated and a Microsoft 365-based system has been implemented.
However the organisation also spent £800,000 on trying to recover data from the cyber incident, but Mr A’Hearn has acknowledged that although the vast majority of it will be recoverable some of it will not be. He questioned whether some of the data was actually that essential to the work the agency has done in the past; Sepa has also relied on external help from trade associations that collected their data as part of their work.
Police Scotland is still investigating the incident but the time lag between identifying the ransomware gang and issuing criminal proceedings suggests there may be significant challenges in bringing anyone to justice.
We need to shout about our successes. Liz Fletcher on celebrating women in biotech
Throughout my career in biotechnology and life sciences, I have seen many women leading ground-breaking research studies in their fields of expertise. Yet, and I include myself in this, we…
Getting the best out of patient data is key to unlocking future health benefits in Scotland
It is important that clinicians’ voices are heard in the consultation around Scotland’s new health and care data strategy, which closes this week (12 August). Busy GPs like myself are the trusted…
How motherhood helped me be a better leader
Consider this an open letter to anyone I have worked with before I became a mother and before I fully understood how being a parent is actually a prized asset…
‘We cannot achieve our goals without entrepreneurs’ – Kate Forbes on vision for new ‘tech scaler’ network
From the very start of my ministerial career, I have had responsibility for the Scottish tech sector – and I can still say what I have said from the start,…
Finding a role in cyber was ‘tough’ for Cheryl Torano. Now she’s determined to help other women join an under-represented industry
When I decided to upskill to change careers at the age of 30 and dive into the digital world, I knew I would be starting out at the bottom of…
Why innovation and marketing are the perfect partners to make changes that matter￼
With the rapid evolution of traditional marketing and the appearance of digital marketing, technology and innovation has become part of any marketer’s life without the need of working for a…
Transitioning to a four-day week – CEO’s vow to strike a healthier balance in the workplace
I came to Scotland nearly 20 years ago from Ireland, with no contacts but a lot of determination. While Ireland will always be my home, Scotland has given me amazing…
Women Lead: The female-led company championing intuitive working
Over the last two years, the pandemic forced a shift to more remote and flexible working practices. Whilst we might be seeing a “return to normal”, some companies are choosing…