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South African govt hit by major cyber heist – minister

The country’s infrastructure ministry has had $16.6 million stolen over the past decade, an official has revealed

Hackers have stolen 300 million rand ($16.6 million) from the South African Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) over the past ten years, a government minister has revealed.

Dean Macpherson, the newly appointed minister of public works and infrastructure, said in a statement on Wednesday that the department had been identified as a “soft target” for cyberattacks. This had emerged while he and deputy minister Sihle Zikalala were evaluating the department’s operations, he added.

“The losses may be even more significant as the investigation continues,” Macpherson stated. He did not rule out the possibility that hackers are increasingly using artificial intelligence to breach ministerial networks, or that there is collusion involving departmental officials.

Macpherson reported that investigators had seized 30 departmental laptops and suspended three senior DPWI officials.

The latest cyberattack occurred in May, resulting in the theft of 24 million rands ($1.3 million) from the department. This prompted the former DPWI minister, Zikalala, to initiate a comprehensive investigation involving the South African Police Service, the State Security Agency, and IT experts.

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South African security forces have not named the locations or the perpetrators of the attacks on the ministry.

The suspension involved four officials from the DPWI, encompassing three senior management members and one individual from middle management. 

“This is money that could have been spent on our infrastructure drive to improve the lives of South Africans,” Macpherson stressed. He stated that the department had been forced to shut down all its payment systems, resulting in delays in paying creditors.

Dean Macpherson is an MP for the Democratic Alliance (DA). He became part of the Government of National Unity after general elections in May, in which the African National Congress (ANC) lost its 30-year parliamentary majority.   

Members of the DA, which won 87 seats in parliament, were assigned to the top jobs in the ministries of education, public works and infrastructure, forestry, fisheries and environment, communications and digital technologies, and home affairs.

July 11, 2024 at 03:49PM

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