BEIRUT: A hacker group claimed it had hacked the Lebanese Ministry of Finance’s website for about an hour on Friday afternoon. The Anonymous—LEB group, which said it had carried out the attack, addressed the Ministry through a post on its Facebook page saying:
“Dear Lebanese Government:
If you think we forget, you are mistaken !!!
We have all ministry of finance data, to be leaked soon!
WE DON’T LEAVE OUR PEOPLE
The group’s Facebook page has 12,700 followers and was founded back in 2012.
The group posts slogans such as: “The people should not be afraid of their government. The government should be afraid of its people.”
The Ministry of Finance later denied its website had been hacked and said in a statement that posts on some media platforms is not true.
It said that the difficulty in accessing the site for about an hour was due to “slowness caused by the huge number of visitors to its website.”
The Ministry of Finance’s website includes facilities for electronic services, information on taxes, tax calculation and legislation, annual budget documents, documented details of public debt, monthly financial performance reports, tax calendar, and the activities of the Minister of Finance.
The supposed cyber attack on the Ministry of Finance coincides with the Lebanese cabinet’s marathon sessions to discuss the draft budget for 2020, in an attempt to further reduce the deficit. The discussions include cuts in the ministers’ budgets and possibly in the salaries of the employees in the public sector.
The cabinet completed the approval of cuts in the budgets of 15 ministries. The Ministerial Committee for the Study of Financial, Economic and Short-term, Medium and Long-term Reforms discussed the following items: freezing wages for three years, increasing pension deductions, imposing a minimum fee on fuel and raising fees on tobacco.
The Lebanese parliament approved the draft budget for the year 2019 at the end of May, seven months late, and included a deficit reduction of 7.59 percent through austerity measures, which Prime Minister Saad Hariri considered at the time as “the most severe in the history of Lebanon.”
Achieving a real reduction in the budget deficit of 2020 will be difficult. The interest on public debt and salaries and peripheral supplements alone account for about 79 percent of expenditure.
Minister of Finance, Ali Hassan Khalil, said a week ago that: “the growth of the Lebanese economy is zero if not negative, putting pressure on the foreign exchange reserves of the Lebanese Central Bank. The debt rose with the interest rate increase.”