Govt move on cyber fraud

2008-06-10 00:00

A syndicate using high-tech spyware has defrauded the KwaZulu-Natal government of more than R199 million over the past three years. To combat this cyber fraud the provincial government yesterday launched a project called “Operation Unembeza”.

KZN MEC for Finance and Economic Development, Dr Zweli Mkhize, said the need to be proactive in preventing high-tech crime arose from investigations since 2005 in which 32 people have been arrested on 86 counts of fraud. He said arrests were carried out by the Durban and Pietermaritzburg Special Commercial Crime Unit. Some cases have been successfully prosecuted, others are going through the court system and there are ongoing investigations. The Asset Forfeiture Unit had seized assets and government employees, identified as having assisted the syndicate, have been dismissed.

Motlalepula Motaung, Head of Treasury’s Internal Audit Unit, said KZN is not the only province affected, so far the syndicate has also been operating in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. Their activities in KZN were first identified in 2005 and their modus operandi was to identify corrupt government officials and suppliers. The official will be given the spyware to attach to certain computers and the syndicate would then be able to access information without needing passwords. According to Mkhize, in 2005/06, a total of eight cyberfraud cases were uncovered involving transactions amounting to R179 million. A further 19 cases were uncovered in 2007/08 amounting to R20,7 million.

The MEC said the need to be proactive was because the technology was changing all the time and government needed to keep on top of these changes. Civil servants also needed to become more security conscious.

“Just by leaving your computer running and going out for a smoke means it could be accessed by a corrupt official,” Mkhize said.

Mkhize explained that Unembeza was a isiZulu word meaning “conscience” and the goal was to remind civil servants to let their conscience be their guide and not become vulnerable to corrupting forces.

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