6th December 2023 1:51 pm
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Cybercrime incidents in 2021 should be a warning for the future

As Africa has moved toward digitalisation with vigour during the COVID-19 pandemic, cybercriminals have targeted the continent with just as much vigour.

The African continent provides a massive attack surface and low levels of technological literacy make for easier targets when compared to a continent such as North America.

Here in South Africa we have experienced our own fair share of cybersecurity incidents throughout 2021 and we hope that moving into the new year we all take the threat a bit more seriously.

Let’s start our look back at cybercrime in South Africa in 2021 with arguably the biggest story – Transnet.

In July, Transnet’s IT systems were targeted by an attack. All signs pointed to a ransomware attack because of how Transnet’s systems were suddenly struck offline and how methodically they had to be returned to service.

Quite frankly, the response from the government to this incident left us wanting. Perhaps as the Cybercrimes Act becomes more toothsome we will see the government respond with more veracity to incidents such as this.

September was a big month with debt recovery firm Debt-IN Consultants being breached. The breach actually occurred in April but it was only discovered in September. What had our tongues wagging was the fact that Debt-IN didn’t discover the breach, one of its clients did while trawling the dark web.

The breach exposed the details on over 1.4 million South Africans and the firm has not provided an update since the incident.

Finally, in the irony of ironies, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development was struck by a ransomware attack back in September.

The Information Regulator provided information on the attack stating that the DoJCD’s cloud environment was breached and an infection was spread from there. While no ransom was demanded, at least 1 200 files were stolen from the department including information of employees, information officers and service providers.

As we mentioned, we hope that as the Cybercrimes Act comes into full effect, we see developments in stories such as this beyond the declaration that there was an incident.

South African firms, however, seem to be averse to providing updates to breaches and we hope this changes in the new year. Especially when we’re still waiting for updates regarding breaches from previous years at big insurers.

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