SASSA struggles to get Web site back up

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An error message comes up when attempting to access the SASSA Web site.
An error message comes up when attempting to access the SASSA Web site.

The Web site of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) remains inaccessible, despite the agency’s promise it would be back up on Wednesday, at the latest.

This week, SASSA confirmed its site was hacked, saying technicians are “working tirelessly” to get it up and running. The agency could not say why anyone would hack its site, but stressed that none of its services have been affected as a result.

This morning, several ITWeb employees attempted to access the site via mobile and the Google Chrome and Internet Explorer browsers without success.

Clicking through to the Web site brings up a message that reads: “The requested URL could not be retrieved. The following error was encountered while trying to retrieve the URL:”

SASSA uses the Web site to provide the latest information about upcoming events, media advisories and statements, services and various documents.

Meanwhile, Johannesburg power utility, City Power, yesterday suffered a ransomware attack that crippled most of its systems and Web site.

In a series of tweets, the utility said: “City Power has been hit by a ransomware virus. It has encrypted all our databases, applications and network. Currently, our ICT department is cleaning and rebuilding all impacted applications.”

Another tweet read: “Customers may not be able to visit our Web site and may not be able to buy electricity units until our ICT department has sorted the matter out. Customers and stakeholders will be updated as and when new information becomes available.

“As customers cannot access our Web site, alternatively they can use (link: to log calls.”

By the end of yesterday, the power utility had been able to clean up and restore “most of the IT applications and networks that were affected by the cyber attack”.

It added: “Work is still continuing on some systems and applications that were affected, including the uploading of invoices by our suppliers, and logging faults by customers on the Web site.”

Commenting on the ransomware incident, Ilia Kolochenko, founder and CEO of ImmuniWeb, says: “We should expect further proliferation of similar incidents. Cities, and especially their infrastructure sites, are usually a low-hanging fruit for unscrupulous cyber gangs. These victims will almost inevitably pay the ransom as all other avenues are either unreliable or too expensive.

“Unless governments develop, finance and duly enforce security regulations purported to safeguard cities and municipalities, we will soon dive into darkness, facing grave accidents involving airports and other objects of critical infrastructure.”

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