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Malawi Suspends Passport Issuance After Cyber-Attack

The government of Malawi has taken the drastic step of suspending the issuance of passports following a cyber-attack on the immigration service’s computer network. President Lazarus Chakwera informed Members of Parliament that the cyber intrusion constituted a grave national security breach, disclosing that the hackers responsible were demanding a ransom.

President Chakwera categorically stated that the government would not entertain the demands of the cybercriminals, emphasizing that Malawi would not negotiate with those who threaten the nation’s security. Instead, efforts are underway to address the issue and restore control over the immigration system.

“We are not in the business of appeasing criminals with public money, nor are we in the business of negotiating with those who attack our country,” President Chakwera asserted.

The suspension of passport issuance comes at a time when demand for travel documents is high in Malawi, particularly among young people seeking job opportunities abroad. President Chakwera has directed the immigration department to provide a temporary solution within three weeks to resume passport issuance while additional security measures are implemented for the long term.

This announcement follows two weeks of disruptions in passport services, initially attributed to a technical glitch. President Chakwera’s revelation of the cyber-attack sheds light on the underlying cause of the delays, although details about the hackers and potential implications for data security remain undisclosed.

The suspension of passport issuance adds to the frustrations of Malawians already grappling with backlog issues and previous disruptions in passport services. Last year, a shortage of passport booklets compounded the problem, exacerbated by foreign currency shortages. Additionally, termination of a passport contract in 2021 due to irregularities further exacerbated delays, prompting criticism of government inefficiency and corruption allegations.

In light of the suspension, individuals without valid passports or whose documents have expired face obstacles in travel plans until passport issuance resumes. The government’s response to the cyber-attack and efforts to restore normalcy in passport services are awaited anxiously by citizens affected by the disruption.

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