SA, France strengthen ties to fight cyber crime

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 20 Jun 2023
Justice and constitutional development minister Ronald Lamola.
Justice and constitutional development minister Ronald Lamola.

South Africa has entered into a partnership with France that aims to improve the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU’s) cyber forensic capabilities.

The move comes amid heightened cyber crime incidents on local shores, impacting government institutions and private organisations.

The cooperation protocol on cyber crime was signed yesterday by French foreign affairs minister Catherine Colonna, and Ronald Lamola, minister in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DJCD).

The agreement is expected to result in the establishment of an anti-corruption academy in the City of Tshwane. It will serve the SIU and other law-enforcement and anti-corruption agencies within the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Speaking at yesterday’s event, Dr Naledi Pandor, minister of international relations and cooperation, said: “I’m confident this partnership between the countries will ensure improved capacity and skills for the SIU in leading the fight in this area.

“Our daily lives have become more and more intertwined with the online world; we’re seeing a global increase in cyber crime. It’s therefore vitally important that governments across the world cooperate in building effective capacities, to counter this scourge and create the necessary conditions within which our populations can feel safe online.

“I’ve noted with great interest the potential that this project has to benefit our friends and neighbours within the SADC, and possibly beyond SADC into the entire continent of Africa.

“I remain convinced that as we continue to work together in our respective countries, regions and the globe, we will be able to address the challenges posed by cyber crime and work toward ensuring safe spaces for all our citizens and our nations.”

Colonna described the signing of the agreement as a landmark in terms of the nations’ bilateral agreement in fighting corruption between the SIU and France.

“This agreement will yield results beneficial to the South African citizen and, possibly, the SADC region. As a result of the close cooperation from the French experts, the SIU currently has 22 trained trainers who possess the capability to train other investigators.”

Catherine Colonna, French foreign affairs minister, and justice and constitutional development minister Ronald Lamola.
Catherine Colonna, French foreign affairs minister, and justice and constitutional development minister Ronald Lamola.

SA is said to be the eighth most targeted country in the world for ransomware, with more than half of South African firms impacted by ransomware in the past year.

The 2023 state of ransomware report compiled by security company Sophos noted 78% of South African organisations were hit by ransomware in the past year.

The CSIR estimates financial losses of up to R2.2 billion per annum to the South African economy because of cyber security incidents.

Credit bureaus, healthcare and retail groups, and financial institutions have been the targets of high-profile cyber attacks. Several government departments, including Lamola’s DJCD, have also been targeted.

Lamola said the cooperation agreement is a practical actualisation of the bilateral relations between the countries. It will add much-needed skills to strengthen the SIU’s capacity in cyber forensic investigations, financial crimes and analytical skills, he stated.

“We are going to benefit a lot through this process of training that will enable our forensic cyber capabilities and investigations to be on par with the standards of the world and the globe, because these types of crime are no longer just national, they are transnational in nature.

“So, this kind of cooperation will definitely be of great value and help to us as a country to enhance our skills and be able to deal with the cyber crimes in the country. This will further boost confidence in the investment climate in our country that our cyberspace is safe and if anything happens, we will have the capabilities to investigate,” he said.