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SA government departments are vulnerable to cyber attack

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 14 Jun 2022

In the aftermath of several cyber attacks against government entities in SA, including the ransomware attack on the Department of Justice (DoJ) in 2021, it’s time for the government to improve and modernise its cyber security efforts.

So says cyber security solutions provider Check Point Software, adding that the recent efforts of hacking group SpiderLog$ pointed out glaring vulnerabilities in the security systems used in local government departments.

The hacking group was able to obtain private data of President Cyril Ramaphosa, including details of a loan he took out from a South African bank in the 2000s, his home address, as well as his ID and cellphone numbers.

Moreover, the group showed screenshots highlighting how could gain entry to the webmail interface of the defence and state security departments (making it possible to access sensitive and military information), as well as identify the private IP addresses of the government’s servers, their domains, and Internet service providers.

Pankaj Bhula, regional director for Africa at Check Point Software, shines the spotlight on how no-one, not even SA's president, is save from cyber crime. “SpiderLog$ has shown that the state is worryingly vulnerable to cyber attack, with the group even expressing that SA is a ‘playground for hackers.’ This should serve as a stark reminder to all organisations to up their cybersecurity game.”

He says government departments have become attractive targets for attackers, due to the wealth of information they have on citizen activity and government operations.

One of the biggest threats to governments of all sizes remains ransomware – as seen in the September 2021 attack on the DoJ and the attack in July the same year on state-owned Transnet.

He says this is because the security used by most government entities today is lagging behind and inadequate when it comes to protecting against today’s advanced threats, and large-scale and multi-vector mega attacks capable of causing massive data breaches that wreak havoc.

To fend off bad actors, government departments must move beyond traditional security methods, and adopt tools that prioritise prevention over detection.

Bhula adds that closing this security gap means government departments must urgently upgrade and consolidate their security architecture, and work with vendors that have Common Criteria certification - an international standard for computer security certification that ensures the highest security standards.

By implementing threat prevention across all attack surfaces, including networks, cloud and mobile, and by the automatic and real-time sharing of threat intelligence, departments can lower their vulnerability to large-scale cyber attacks, he ends.