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SIU, CSIR add tech in cyber crime, corruption fight

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 24 Aug 2022
SIU head Andy Mothibi and CSIR CEO Dr Thulani Dlamini sign the MOU for the deployment of advanced tech to curb corruption.
SIU head Andy Mothibi and CSIR CEO Dr Thulani Dlamini sign the MOU for the deployment of advanced tech to curb corruption.

The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) plan to use digital inventions to tackle the scourge of fraud, corruption and cyber-related crimes in SA.

This week, the government entities signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU), agreeing to collaborate in capacitating the country with fraud and corruption prevention tools.

The collaboration is hinged on five strategic areas, said Dr Jabu Mtsweni, information and cyber security research centre manager at the CSIR, in an interview onSAfm Sunrise with Stephen Grootes yesterday.

These areas include data analytics and sharing, digital forensics, information and cyber security, artificial intelligence, distributed ledger technology or blockchain, and cyber infrastructure support.

The partnership will also see capability-building in the development of digital investigation tools, digital forensic investigations and analysis, cloud and high-performance computing to uproot cyber crimes before they occur, say the entities.

Mtsweni explained that when people have committed corruption and crime, a lot of data is generated during the investigation process.

“The CSIR and SIU will be working together, particularly in developing tools and technologies to predict, detect as well as prevent some of the practices that we see. It’s all about capacity development, capability development in supporting a capable state – the partnership is hinged on that.

“We’ll work cooperatively together in terms of understanding data-driven investigations. We’ll be supporting each other with the cyber infrastructure − for example, the storage of the data, building models and processing this data − so that the investigations can be much faster and more efficient.

“It’s also about using new technologies such as distributed ledger technology in terms of understanding how we protect, for example, the privacy of whistle-blowers. We’ll also look at how to use 4IR technologies like artificial intelligence…to prevent corruption before it happens because there are certain patterns and lessons you can learn from that data.”

South Africa has seen cyber attacks and cyber crimes in the public and private sectors increase at an alarming rate, particularly with the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.

A report published by Interpol last year revealed the African region experienced attacks against critical infrastructure and frontline services during the pandemic, most prominently in SA and Botswana.

At this year’s ITWeb Security Summit, Ahmore Burger-Smidt − director, head of data privacy and cyber crime practice at Werksmans − indicated SA had a total of 230 million threat detections in 2021. Globally, SA had the third-highest number of cyber crime victims, she stated.

Speaking at the MOU signing ceremony, CSIR CEO Dr Thulani Dlamini noted the fight against corruption and cyber crimes is a major issue in South Africa.

“The work that we do contributes to ensuring we support a capable state. Through this partnership, the CSIR will utilise its research competency to assist the SIU with the necessary technological solutions to tackle cyber crimes.

“Our team of experts in data science, information security, as well as cyber security, blockchain and artificial intelligence, are ready to assist.”

Advocate Andy Mothibi, head of the SIU, added: “Our partnership with the CSIR is in line with the SIU’s strategy of detecting fraud and corruption early, and having systems in place that prevent these crimes.

“We live in a digitised world and criminals are using technology to their advantage – we cannot be left behind. The expertise and technology the CSIR are offering the SIU are needed in order to fulfil our mandate. We cannot fight crime alone, which is why this partnership is important to the SIU.”