Ransomware attack: Personal information may have been accessed, says justice dept

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The department of justice has been hit with a ransomware attack.
The department of justice has been hit with a ransomware attack.
Bill Hinton/Getty Images
  • Some personal information may have been accessed after a ransomware attack at the justice department.
  • The perpetrators of the attack are still unknown.
  • The department is in the process of establishing the exact nature and extent of the breach.

The Department of Justice says its Information and Communications Technology systems have been compromised, although it is not yet clear what personal information has been accessed.

According to the department, after a ransomware attack two weeks ago, there has been an ongoing investigation into the nature and extent of the breach. 

"Upon receiving a further report following the ongoing investigation into the breach, it was reported on 19 September 2021 that some personal information may have been exfiltrated (i.e. data having been accessed and sent outside of the organisation).

"We are in the process of establishing the exact nature of personal information that has been accessed (e.g. addresses, email, etc), as well as the affected parties involved," department spokesperson Steve Mahlangu said in a statement.

READ | Justice department says child maintenance payment will be delayed

The department said the IT team and selected industry parties and organs of state have been working expeditiously to contain the spread of the malware, and bringing up services in a safe and secure manner.

"Priority has been given to services that are affecting the public directly, particularly as it pertains to beneficiary payments, and ensuring that court proceedings continue as planned."

Mahlangu further added that, to date, over 30 000 beneficiaries had been paid as part of these payment runs.

He said manual processes had been put in place to ensure the courts could operate normally.

"In the past week, the electronic recording of court proceedings had been restored since 16 September 2021 and, as such, most courts are operating as normal."

The department added that the Masters Offices around the country continue to, as an interim measure, use a manual process to provide bereaved families, in exceptional cases, where there was a need to access funds from the deceased's banking account for burial costs. 


"In this regard, the Offices of the Master of the High Court continues to provide the MBU 12 forms to bereaved families, in the interim that allows the family members access to the accounts of the deceased for the purpose of acquiring funds to pay for burial costs of the deceased.

"However, manual letters of executorship or authority still cannot be issued during this crisis period, so as to address the risk of fraud. The Guardian's Fund, regrettably, remains inaccessible, with every effort being made to restore some functionality during this week," said Mahlangu.

READ | Justice department processes child maintenance payment following delays due to system breach

Following the receipt of correspondence from the Information Regulator, the department said it had reported the outcome of the investigation report on the exfiltration of personal information with the Information Regulator, in a letter dated 20 September 2021. 

"Further, as required by law, and as soon as the department is in a position to do so, we will endeavour to take all reasonable steps in terms of alerting affected data subjects of the breach, the extent of the breach, as well measures to ensure it doesn't re-occur," added Mahlangu.

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