State hacks back

2013-05-26 15:50


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Johannesburg - The state’s IT agency has brought in its own hackers to protect ­government websites from international cyber attacks after the website of the SA Police Service (SAPS) was cracked two weeks ago.

In possibly the biggest cyber attack against government, the names, numbers and addresses of thousands of crime whistle-blowers were published on the internet.

In the same week, following a ­tip-off, City Press alerted the City of Johannesburg to a serious security hole in a key online database, which exposed thousands of ratepayers’ personal and account ­information to prying eyes.

Network-security experts warn that South African government sites and servers are ripe targets for cyber attacks, with the exploit against the police by a hacker named DomainerAnon simply a taste of what could come.

DomainerAnon - who said the hack was to avenge the 34 miners shot at Marikana - released 16 000 crime whistle-blowers' details online.

The details were extracted from the police website, where crime tip-offs and other information is submitted to the police.

The hacker also publicly released a further 800 login and contact details of police officials, including cellphone numbers.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Phuti Setati insisted that no confidential or case information was ­released and said the security hole had been plugged by the State Information Technology Agency (Sita), which hosts the SAPS website.


Auditor General Terence Nombembe, who has been warning national and provincial departments about poor IT security, said that until recently government did not have a framework to deal with vulnerabilities in its IT systems.

"That's where the loophole is at the moment. It's basically rolling out the initiatives to those recommendations we made to departments. But vulnerability [to hackers] is still there because not all the departments have been able to ­respond with speed to this level of vulnerability,” he said.

Crime Intelligence cybercrime experts have been tasked to track down the perpetrator.

Sita executive for ICT service delivery Mmakgosi Mosupi said the agency was now reviewing ­security mechanisms on all the government websites it hosted.

"The process involves doing penetration tests and vulnerability scans to close any loopholes. Sita has joined forces with other government institutions to mitigate against hacks and we are continuously monitoring websites for any abnormal activities," she said.

Recent cyber attacks on state-owned web properties include last January’s cyberheist of R42m from Postbank and an attack on the Sanral e-tolls website.

Craig Rosewarne, chairperson of the Information Security Group Africa, said his group had repeatedly warned government decision makers of the importance of data security.

"Unfortunately, we’re just going to have to wait for more ­incidents to take place and more public pressure around these ­issues before we see the urgency needed."
Read more on:    police  |  tolls  |  cybercrime  |  internet

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