At the weekend Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba disclosed news that his phone had been hacked sometime in the last two years.
The hacker made off with a video of Gigaba and his wife “containing material of a sexual nature”. The minister says that the video has been at the centre of a number of blackmail attempts, all of which he has refused.
This video has been at the centre of a number of blackmail and extortion attempts, dating back to the period immediately following my appointment as Minister of Finance, on 31 March 2017, all of which I have steadfastly refused to entertain…
— Malusi Gigaba (@mgigaba) October 28, 2018
The first question that we had was how this happened. Not the video itself, what people – ministers or otherwise – do in their own time is none of our business, but rather how the video was leaked.
If Gigaba had been using an Android smartphone during the period he alleges the hack happened, breaching it would have been trivial.
Breaching an iPhone would have been slightly trickier though not impossible. While Apple’s operating system is widely regarded as being more secure than Android, its not impossible to crack Apple’s defenses.
Back in 2016 Symantec reported (PDF) that the volume of malicious Android applications had increased by 105 percent that year.
By the end of 2016 there were as many as 3 634 mobile malware variants in the wild.
Fast forward to mid-2018 and Check Point’s Cyber Attack Trends points out that whether by way of malicious URLs, pre-installed malware or malicious apps, getting malware onto a smartphone is easier than ever.
For this reason it’s highly recommended that smartphone users protect themselves from threats.
To start, install a trusted security solution for your smartphone. There are a number of free solutions available but many desktop protection solutions bundle mobile protection as well.
Users should also only download apps from legitimate sources such as the Google Play Store. In addition, when clicking a link in an email or anywhere online make sure the link isn’t to a nefarious website.
The more extreme measure is to factory reset your handset every few months.
Of course, making sure you have strong passwords and passcodes to get into your handset is advised as well.
However the attackers coming by Gigaba’s files highlights the importance of taking your security seriously. Whether the hackers were able to glean more than a sex tape from the minister remains to be seen but if his handset was indeed hacked, a sex tape should be the least of the government official’s concerns.
[Image – CC BY 2.0 HowToStartABlog]