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Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge

Engineering firm contracted to Hong Kong-Macau bridge has server hacked, documents destroyed

Highways Department insists private personnel data was not compromised in the March 2 security breach

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 May, 2017, 6:39pm
UPDATED : Monday, 08 May, 2017, 6:51pm

An engineering and design firm contracted to work on part of the multibillion-dollar Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge had its computer system hacked in March, with project files locked and deleted.

The Highways Department on Monday said it was alerted to the cyber attack at Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong on March 2, but insisted that the project was still on course.

“A server at their office was attacked by ‘ransomware’ software and some of the files were encrypted for ransom from staff,” a department spokesman said.

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He said staff immediately cut off the internet connection to the server and reported it to police, and that private personnel information had not been compromised because it was not stored on the hacked server.

“The Highways Department has already requested the on-site engineers and contractor to update their internet security software on the office computer networks so as to increase online security.

The incident has not affected the progress of the contract.”

A police source said it was being treated as a case of blackmail, and handled by the cyber security and technology crime bureau. So far, no one has been arrested in connection with the hacking.

Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong was commissioned to design and build the HK$12.9-billion Hong Kong Link Road project alongside contractor Dragages-China Harbour-VSL Joint Venture.

When complete, the project will connect the main bridge at the city’s boundary to Scenic Hill on Chek Lap Kok via a duel three-lane viaduct of 9.4 kilometres.

Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong did not return the Post’s requests for comment.

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Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said the department should have informed the public of the cyber attack immediately, not two months later, because the project involves a tremendous amount of public interest.

“The public has every right to know any irregularities concerning this mega bridge. It gives us the impression that the government has something to hide,” he said.

“The government should also provide a clear picture as to what information has gone missing or destroyed by the hackers. We need to know if the information destroyed is confidential and if the stolen information will affect the workers’ privacy,” he added.

Lam warned that public confidence over the government’s ability to effectively monitor the project would be eroded if it continued to fail to release information in a timely manner.

Additional reporting Clifford Lo