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Gauteng e-govt MEC’s e-mail, social media hacked

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Gauteng MEC of finance and e-government Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko.
Gauteng MEC of finance and e-government Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko.

Gauteng member of the executive council (MEC) of finance and e-government, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko’s private e-mail and social media accounts have been hacked.

Nkomo-Ralehoko’s office says the hack was discovered yesterday after members of the Gauteng executive council, director-general of the province and other senior officials received an e-mail purporting to come from her.

“This fake e-mail that was circulated had attachments of password-protected documents about confidential Cabinet documents currently under discussion at the Gauteng Provincial Executive Council Lekgotla,” says the MEC’s spokesperson, Tshepo Shawa.

Nkomo-Ralehoko’s hacking comes at a time she is battling with department officials over irregular expenditure of R100 million on cyber security.

The MEC’s department is responsible for the Gauteng government’s cyber security.

According to Shawa, the hacking incident was immediately reported to the relevant authorities and is now subject to preliminary investigations by the province’s security and cyber unit to determine the source.

Shawa declined to comment on allegations that the hack was an inside job by some officials who have been battling with the MEC after she demanded answers on the security contract, which was flagged for R100 million irregular expenditure in April.

The ambitious provincial security project has been incurring irregular expenditure unabated over the last four years, with the contract being renewed multiple times without going to open tender.

The Gauteng cyber security contract has, to date, cost the provincial government over R200 million, of which more than half has been flagged as irregular expenditure.

The Gauteng government has a broader plan to protect the provincial government against increasing threats of cyber attacks. The e-government department had initially planned to launch its own Security Operation Centre but the services were later outsourced.

“MEC Nkomo-Ralehoko would like to reiterate that she did not send out any Cabinet or government information through a private e-mail and she would further like to warn anyone who may receive this e-mail that they must not react nor respond to it.”

Nkomo-Ralehoko has also laid a criminal case with the SAPS over the issue.

In her affidavit to the police seen by ITWeb, she says: “On Wednesday 2020:10:28 at about 09h00, I received a phone call from Mbali Gumede from the office of the premier informing that I have circulated Cabinet documents using my Gmail account to executive committee members.

“Under no circumstances did I circulate any such documents on the said date. I did not instruct any personnel to do such.”

The hacking of Nkomo-Ralehoko comes just three weeks after communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams’s WhatsApp account was hacked.

The department said at the time: “The WhatsApp account of minister of communications and digital technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has been hacked, resulting in private and confidential information being in the hands of a third-party.”

According to the department, the matter was reported to law enforcement authorities and platform owners for action.

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