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Sensitive Department of Defence data leaked online

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 04 Sept 2023
The Department of Defence has launched a probe into a data leak incident.
The Department of Defence has launched a probe into a data leak incident.

The Department of Defence says its sensitive information was accessed by cyber criminals after a data leak.

In a statement issued over the weekend, it notes that while it has not been hacked, it has since launched a probe into the incident.

According to a DefenceWeb report, the incident happened two weeks ago, with 1.6-terabytes of data being siphoned from the Department of Defence’s systems.

It adds that the leak, apparently the work of the Snatch group, extracted massive amounts of data allegedly containing military contracts, “internal call signs” and personal information.

DefenceWeb adds the Snatch group claimed responsibility for the data breach and published “a proof pack” a month later.

This reportedly contained Defence Material Division personnel information, including contact details. The group subsequently made the hacked data available for download.

Says the department in its statement: “Preliminary investigations have been conducted by the department in this regard. It can be confirmed the system of the Department of Defence has not been hacked. This is the work of criminal syndicates within the cyber space, aided through information leaked from the department.

“The Department of Defence has policies in place that prohibits unauthorised access and sharing of classified information.

“The investigation continues and perpetrators will be brought to book. The department assures South Africans that our systems are secured and measures have been put in place to ensure the state information is not compromised.”

The data leak comes as government departments have increasingly become attractive targets for attackers, due to the wealth of information they possess.

Israeli-based cyber security firm Check Point Software Technologies says the government industry is a prime target of cyber attacks for a variety of reasons.

According to the firm, these include the fact that governments have access to highly-sensitive data and they control critical infrastructure that can be disrupted by cyber attacks. Additionally, government agencies may be targeted by hacktivists with political motivations, it notes.

In 2021, South Africa’s Department of Justice and Constitutional Development was hit by a cyber attack that crippled its IT systems for some days.