Environmental Southland Target of Cyber Vandals

Event Year: 2009 Reliability: Confirmed
Country: New Zealand
Industry Type: Other

Intermittent problems with two computers used to coordinate the telemetry and interactive voice response system (IVRS) were noticed.  Flood warning data was collected and stored but callers had been unable to check river levels using the telephone reporting system on a few occasions because the computers stopped communicating with each other.  Environmental Southland had to reset the computers manually every time the problem occurred. An investigation revealed that there had been a series of attempts to hack into the flood warning system from email addresses with Chinese domain names.  The hackers had found a gap in the firewall, but did not have the correct passwords to cause further disruptions.  The gap in the firewall probably went unnoticed for “two or three years” according to the IT manager, Stephen Aldridge.  Environment Southland is a New Zealand government agency that protects the natural resources, including water, air and land.


The flood water levels could not be checked using the automated telephone reporting system.  Loss of staff time.

Action Description: Closed gaps in firewall. New security measures were installed.