Expert warns of govt's lax cybersecurity

2013-03-06 22:41

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Johannesburg - An expert said on Wednesday that it "wouldn't be hard to shut down the government", considering the minimal cybersecurity measures in place.

In the wake of hackers claiming the scalp of the state security ministry's Twitter account, cyber security officials fear the next high profile attack on an African government, with South Africa being of particular concern, will not be so harmless.

"It wouldn't be hard to shut down the government. There's very little in place, so even the most basic of attacks, in most cases, get through," said Craig Rosewarne, founder of the South African-based consulting firm Wolfpack Information Risk.

With funding from the British government, Rosewarne’s consulting group recently published a much-heralded threat analysis on the continent.

According to the report, most developing African nations have been either unwilling or unable to secure their rapidly expanding online networks and infrastructures.

South Africa is a particular source of frustration.

Rosewarne's analysis found that corruption is driving a proliferation of digital crimes throughout the country.

"We've delayed so much that other African countries have actually overtaken us," he told AFP.

Over the past few years, hundreds of criminal syndicates have taken advantage of lax cyber security to launch relatively unsophisticated attacks, often using government or business insiders to exploit vulnerable networks.

Scary guys

It is estimated that cyber crimes resulted in R2.65bn in damages and losses across South Africa in 2011, the last year reliable figures were published.

"While we're seeing a huge surge in financially motivated crimes, we're also seeing an upswing in hacktivism," Rosewarne said.

"And that's where you'll get the scary guys - the guys that will go full out to make it happen."

The most ambitious of these homegrown hacking collectives is Team GhostShell.

Last year during its Project White Fox campaign, the group published 1.4 million hacked government and corporate documents from overseas institutions.

In October, the prolific hacker group Anonymous publicly distanced itself from GhostShell after the latter leaked the e-mail addresses, passwords and identifications of 120 000 students from more than 100 universities worldwide.

With ANC leaders laying out a June deadline for adoption of the proposed "Secrecy Law," digital security experts worry the next few months could bring an onslaught of cyber attacks from GhostShell and its allies.

"The moment the proposed Secrecy Law is enacted, it's going to be a trigger to stir up and bring these collective partnerships together," said Rosewarne.

Dire threat

The African Union and the UN Economic Commission for Africa believe these hackers, along with their financially motivated counterparts, pose a dire threat to the continent's growth plan.

To help national governments combat this insurgency, they drafted a regional convention on cyber legislation that is awaiting sign-off from member countries.

"Without such protection, countries cannot take advantage of the digital economy in a sustainable way," said Aida Opoku-Mensah, director of UNECA.

"Consequently, the convention sends a strong political message that Africa is ready for the knowledge economy."

Even much-maligned South Africa is beginning to step up its efforts to thwart online crimes.

The country’s director of cyber security announced that final plans for a national hub to combat online threats will be unveiled in July.

Meanwhile, a cohort of cyber inspectors are being trained to ferret out criminals - the first national efforts to train specialist law enforcement personnel since 2003.

"We've got capability, but it's fragmented," Rosewarne said. "We need a senior person to take the lead on this and to actually put in the necessary resources and look at the bigger picture and get things going in this country."

This lack of leadership has left local police dangerously ignorant of cyber security laws and the government has still has not implemented critical response teams that can respond to attacks.

Until all the pieces come together - Rosewarne believes this could take two years if fully prioritised - then South Africa, like most of the continent, will continue to lag behind other mature economies that have already constructed robust digital defences.

Read more on:    online security
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
27 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Music

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 40% off fashion accessories

Save up to 40% on selected handbags, purses, watches, jewellery and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2000 on top electronics

Get every day mind bowing savings on top electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

As seen on TV - New book releases at only R199 each

Get mind blowing book savings on new titles. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to 50% on Women’s month treats!

Celebrate the awesome women in your life with awesome treats like beauty products, fashion accessories, bestselling books, electronics and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

The quest for understanding has reached a new intense emotional level. The more tempestuous your emotions are, the bigger the...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.