A computer at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge project was hacked in March, though the government only admitted the incident occurred following media reports two months later. The hackers locked the files, demanded ransoms, and eventually deleted some files after the police were notified.

The Highways Department confirmed that it received notification on March 2 from a resident site staffer, who said a server at its office was attacked by “ransomware” and some of the files were encrypted to blackmail the staff for ransom.

The staffer immediately cut the internet connection of the relevant server and sought help from the police.

Hong Kong Link Road of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. Photo: GovHK.

A Highways Department spokesperson said that consultancy firm Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong confirmed that no personal information from staff was stored on the computers.

The spokesperson said the incident did not affect the progress of the project. The department has required site engineers and contractors to update the internet security software on the office machines.

Files deleted 

Chinese-language newspaper Oriental Daily first reported the incident on Monday, which said the hackers unlocked the files after Ove Arup requested police assistance. However, some files were destroyed and deleted by the hackers.

The project in question is the “Hong Kong Link Road – Section between HKSAR Boundary and Scenic Hill” numbered HY/2011/09. It commenced in May 2012 and is expected to be completed by the end of this year. It costs HK$12.9 billion.

The road connects the main bridge with the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities next to the Hong Kong International Airport.

Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge
The plot of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Hong Kong Link Road. Photo: GovHK.

Democratic Party lawmaker Roy Kwong Chun-yu demanded the department reveal what kind of engineering information was involved in the incident. He said the security on the project’s computer system was “alarming.”

“The government cannot even do the most basic information security work right,” he said.

He also said the department has to explain why the incident remained unreported until the media asked questions two months later.

The bridge, at a cost of HK$117.7 million, has been plagued by over spending, delays, and deadly accidents involving workers.

The Highways Department had also been accused of covering up the irregular movements of seawalls erected as part of the project for over two years.

anthony cheung bing leung
Transport and housing secretary at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao bridge. File Photo: GovHK.

Last month, the department said it was confident that the bridge’s Hong Kong projects can be completed by the end of 2017 and “achieve readiness for commissioning.” But it did not directly give an exact opening date.

When completed, the bridge will cut travel time from Hong Kong to Macau and Zhuhai to about 45 minutes.

Ove Arup, a subsidiary of British engineering firm Arup Group, is a consultant often used for government projects.

Last year, the company was caught using restricted government data without authorisation in a private developer project next to the controversial government development project in Wang Chau, Yuen Long. It was the consultant for both projects.

Arup was suspended from tendering for three months as punishment for its actions. However, the punishment was criticised as being too minor.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.