Chief justice’s office hit by cyber security breach

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The Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) suffered a security breach in its ICT environment, which occurred towards the end of September.

This was revealed by the OCJ’s secretary general, Memme Sejosengwe, during a virtual briefing to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on Tuesday.

Sejosengwe, however, was reluctant to provide any further details of the breach, only stating it is under investigation with a multi-disciplinary team of law enforcement agencies of the state.

“The matter is under investigation, and therefore, we need to give the investigation the time to ensure they come to the root cause and deal with the matter in that cause.

“I seek the committee’s indulgence that we do not discuss this matter further so that we don’t compromise the law enforcement agencies’ investigations and also expose the system more to the vulnerabilities and risks.”

This isn’t the first time the office’s IT has been compromised.

In 2017, IT equipment containing critical and confidential information about Constitutional Court judges and officials was stolen from the office of the country's highest judicial officer.

Thieves made off with 15 computers from the human resources department, containing confidential information of all the South African judges, judiciary staff and the courts.

During the presentation to the committee, Sejosengwe also revealed the findings of an internal audit, listing inadequacies in ICT security and user access management, as well as ICT operational inefficiencies as some of the areas of concern raised.

She added that other issues raised in the audit included the lack of automated systems to improve accuracy and completeness of information, relating to court performance, leave administration and compliance with payment deadlines.

The office’s CFO Casper Coetzer told committee members that in the first quarter of the 2020/21 financial year, there was under-spending of R61 million.

The main reason for this was the lockdown of the country due to COVID-19, which affected the entire quarter, said Coetzer.

Noting the areas of under-spending, he said it was on the goods and services portion of the budget, compensation of employees as well as capital under-spending.

“On our procurement plan, especially in the ICT environment, there were a number of projects that we wanted to kick-off during quarter one but due to the lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions, it was not possible to complete procurement processes for the expenditure on the capital for ICT equipment.

“This is basically the main reason why we under-spent in quarter one.”

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