Saudi labour ministry still crippled by Jan cyber attack

Labour ministry offices are still unable to renew residence permits



Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labour and social Development is still unable to renew or transfer residence permits following a devastating cyber attack on January 23.

Saudi Gazette reports that the ministry’s office Al-Marwah district branch in Jeddah was chaotic yesterday as visitors sought information on when the network would be fully restored.

A mid-level manager reportedly showed the publication a blank computer seen and was quoted as saying: “This is the only thing we have been able to see on our systems for the past nine days.”

There was also no indication of when service would be restored with the manager suggesting it could take a “day, week, month or year”.

Companies in the kingdom are charged SAR650 ($173) to renew a residence permit at the Passport Department and SAR2,400 ($640) at the labour ministry, meaning they are unable to complete the process with ministry systems down.

Despite this, banks have frozen the accounts of expats who have been unable to renew their permits.

Separately reports this week suggested the Directorate General of Passports had increased the punishment for companies that fail to renew residence visas in time, with a final measure of deporting the affected worker.

Companies that do not renew residence permits until three days before their expiry will be fined SAR500 ($133), increasing to SAR1,000 ($267) for a second offence and the deportation of the worker for a third offence, sources told Al-Madina newspaper.

There was some suggestion that the labour ministry would push to exempt those affected by the system outage from being affected by the fines.

The Shamoon malware that infected the ministry’s systems is believed to be the same kind responsible for a massive attack that crippled tens of thousands of computers at state oil giant Saudi Aramco in 2012.

Read: Saudi warns on cyber defense as Shamoon virus resurfaces