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Will payment system cyber attack delay December salaries?


Staff Reporters

The December salaries of many public and private sector employees are expected to be significantly delayed as a result of the disruptive cyber-attack on Lesotho’s payment system, which has shut down inter-bank transactions.

The cyber-attack, which hit on December 11 has raised questions on the government system’s readiness to fight cyber-attacks as this is not the first one to strike this year. 

In July this year, the government’s Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) fell victim to a Ransomware attack, forcing a halt on all payment systems.

The High Court of Lesotho also suffered a similar malicious malware attack in August this year, which compromised its operation.

The attack on the national payment system (NPS) has made it impossible for all local banks to effect transactions from one bank to another, according to a joint statement from the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) and the Banking Association of Lesotho (BAL).

A division of the CBL, the NPS’s main function is to promote an efficient operation of payment systems. 

It performs this function through the operation and administration of the Real Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS) called Lesotho Wire and through the oversight of the payment systems. The main goal of this is to ensure effectiveness in inter-bank funds transfer and reduction of payment risks, especially systemic risk.

“The Bankers Association of Lesotho (BAL) and the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) acknowledge the ongoing downtime of the National Payments System that has made it impossible for all local banks to honour inter-bank transactions in the country,” the statement reads. 

“These are payments and transactions that would normally flow from one bank to another. Technical teams from the Central Bank of Lesotho as the Regulator and the banking industry as a whole are working tirelessly to resolve the issue, and the nation will be notified as soon as the system is back in operation. 

The statement further indicated that alternative means of transacting were being sought while the national payments system was being repaired. 

“The CBL and BAL members have now agreed to institute business continuity processes and measures as alternative ways to facilitate payments and transactions between all banks. The Central Bank of Lesotho will continue to update all Basotho and users of the financial payments system on these developments.”

The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning has also released a statement, acknowledging possible disruption in payment of government employees’ salaries.

“The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning informs the public about a cyber attack at the Central Bank of Lesotho on December 11. The attack has affected the national payments system, and the ministry working with the Central Bank assures the public that we are working tirelessly to restore the payment system to normalcy,” the Ministry said.   

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