By Tenzin Sangmo
CTA President responding to questions on cybersecurity
DHARAMSHALA, March 21: The ongoing 7th session of the 16th Parliament-in-exile today saw the President of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) Dr Lobsang Sangay referencing to Buddha’s teaching as a useful practice to counter phishing and cyber-attacks targeting the exile setting.
Dorjee Tseten, a member of parliament from Dotoe province raised the question on what measures were taken to mitigate the impact of cyber-attacks like the pro-China threat actors phishing attack that happened early this year that used a CTA mailing list.
Calling it a worldwide reality and something CTA has been facing for years now, Sangay revealed that during the 60th Tibetan National Uprising Day Ceremony proceeding held recently, the official live broadcast suffered malfunction with subtitles emerging automatically on the screen and disruption to the live broadcast during Sikyong’s speech that remained omitted from the broadcast.
The DIIR technical team had to switch off the transmission and use a different set of equipment to continue.
Sangay also said that tibet.net, the official website of the administration in exile continues to face attacks making it difficult for governments around the world to visit the website from their office computer systems.
“The staff of Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Voice of America (VOA) claimed to be unable to view the website from their respective office computers although they could view on their mobile phones,” he said of his experience during one of his visits to Washington.
The CTA also faced an issue with the live transmission on the first day of the ongoing parliamentary session and foresee similar obstructions during election time.
To better prepare for such attacks, an expert cyber security team with members from the Netherlands, Germany and Italy was invited for a 2-day workshop for the concerned staff a few weeks ago.
CTA continues to impart tips and workshops by experts from its Tibetan Computer Resource Center (TCRC), the technical wing of the Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR).
Lhagyari Namgyal Dolkar, a member of parliament from U-Tsang province urged the president who is also the head of DIIR to not let it pass as a common phenomenon but to actively counter it as it is impacting the daily work of the whole exile workforce. She proposed having the staff of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) included in such workshops teaching good practices in cybersecurity.
Sangay responded by saying the administration will tackle the problem even it would mean hiring experts from abroad or from India to improve cybersecurity know-how and agreed that the threat cannot be differentiated between CTA and NGOs as the interexchange of emails expose everyone to the same vulnerability.
“We will invite representatives of NGOs or attend workshops organized by NGOs,” said Sangay, projecting a united front to tackle the cybersecurity threat.