Hacked in Slovakia; E-auctions Not So Watertight

The Ministry of Culture is facing a dilemma regarding the recent electronic auction for the supply of vouchers to cultural events for schools, as hackers were used to block the bids of at least three of those taking part in the tender.

Will Ministry of Culture hold auction again? (c) The Daily

As the auction was nearing an end, Slovak company Kasiko was bombarded with around 8,000 spam e-mails within 10 minutes, which froze its server before it could finish bidding for the tender. By the time it was back online, the auction was over.

The same thing happened to another bidder, Hungarian banknote printer Pénzjegynyomda Zrt., which also reported the hacker attack using thousands of e-mails to freeze its system. According to daily SME, a third company was also attacked, but it did not file a complaint.

In response to the situation, the Ministry of Culture said that the bidders’ complaints were based on a “technical fault” on their side, for which the Ministry takes no liability. The Ministry issued a statement saying “a fault on the side of a bidder does not constitute grounds for the tender to be held again”, and so it does not plan to hold a new auction.

This stance of the Ministry is regarded by the hacked companies as a dangerous precedence, however, as it opens up the floodgates for anyone to try the same when competing for a tender in future. The only obstacle they face is that nobody knows who is taking part in the auction except the contracting authority itself, in this case the Ministry of Culture.

Nevertheless, given the specifics of certain tenders like this one, bidders have a good idea of who they are competing against, as often there are only a few companies on the market that satisfy the qualification requirements or which can provide the requested subject of procurement.

Emilia Sicakova-Beblava from Transparency International told SME daily that the tender should be repeated if it is found that hacker attacks did, in fact, take place, as this prevented the Ministry from accepting the best bid. The case is now being investigated by the Attorney General’s Office in Slovakia and the police in Hungary.

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