Justice dept channels funds to hack-proof IT systems

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 23 May 2022
Justice and constitutional development minister Ronald Lamola.
Justice and constitutional development minister Ronald Lamola.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DJCD) plans to invest a portion of its 2022/2023 budget to strengthen its cyber security, to avoid another cyber attack on its IT systems.

This was the word from DJCD minister Ronald Lamola, presenting his ministry’s 2022/2023 budget vote during a virtual plenary session of the National Assembly last week.

In September, the justice department suffered a ransomware attack on its IT systems, following a security breach that led to all of the department’s information systems being encrypted and unavailable to internal employees, as well as members of the public.

As a result, all electronic services provided by the department were affected at the time, including the issuing of letters of authority, bail services, e-mail and the departmental website.

During his presentation, Lamola noted this was a setback to the department’s budget and innovation endeavours, noting it continuously works towards beefing up security across the department’s systems.

“Whilst responding to the unprecedented pressures of the global pandemic, we also had to contend with the debilitating ransomware attack. The attack not only impacted the delivery of existing services enabled by technology, but also its modernisation programme.

“We continuously strive to protect the department's digital assets through continuous threat detection and monitoring, which includes the implementation of new security products, based on continuous security assessments.”

Several days after the attack, the office of the Information Regulator (IR) released a statement notifying the public that the DJCDbreach had spilled over onto the watchdog’s IT systems. The IR noted this impacted the work of the IR, which relies on the DJCD’s IT systems for its own operations.

The DJCD has also embarked on a massive modernisation journey, and plans to invest a huge chunk of its 2022/2023 budget in the Integrated Justice System,in efforts to strengthen the criminal justice system.

During a television interview on Newzroom Afrika’s Newz@Prime following his budget speech,Lamola noted the department has put contingency measures in place to ensure the IT systems are “hack-proof”.

“Cyber attacks remain a threat to all government departments, and we believe we have to respond adequately going into the future. We have gained good experience and we have learnt lessons on avoiding a similar incident and we are continuously implementing backup and the necessarily security systems.

“We have to prioritise security of the infrastructure to enable us to respond to the needs of the various digital initiatives we have introduced, so they will meet their objectives in serving the public,” he said.