Unveiling South Africa's vulnerability: How the nation became a playground for cyber threats and hackers

According to Information Regulator chairperson, South Africa has become a playground for hackers. Picture: Cliff1126/Pixabay

According to Information Regulator chairperson, South Africa has become a playground for hackers. Picture: Cliff1126/Pixabay

Published Mar 31, 2024


South African companies, both private-owned and public sector, have been hit with an onslaught of cyber threats.

According to Information Regulator (IR) chairperson, South Africa has become a playground for hackers.

Speaking to eNCA, IR chairperson, Pansy Tlakula, said in the 2023/24 financial year, they received closed to 1,000 complaints involving security breaches.

The International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) revealed that South Africa has the highest number of reported cybersecurity threats.

Interpol's 2022 Africa Cyber Threat Assessment Report showed that the country recorded 230 million threat detections, followed by Kenya and Morocco. Of South Africa's threat detections, 219 million are linked to email threats.

Earlier this month, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) had to temporarily shut down its IT systems after an attempted cyber breach. It was reported that clients and staff's personal information was compromised.

Nampak also announced a security system breach. The packaging giant said it took the necessary steps to contain, assess and remediate the situation.

ITweb reported that the acceleration of technological advancements, especially in artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, has ushered in a new era of cyber threats.

Cybersecurity experts, Kaspersky, said online threats caused by vulnerabilities on web pages, in emails or web services, have fluctuated significantly in the region. It stated that South Africa had a high number of users affected by online threats.

Kaspersky's director of Middle East, Turkiye, Africa (META) region Research Center Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT), Amin Hasbini said as the cyber security landscape evolves, cyber threats continue to become diverse and sophisticated.

"This trend is particularly evident due to the emergence of advanced technologies like AI and the escalating geopolitical and economic turbulence within the META region. These factors collectively contribute to the surge in cybercrime and the heightened complexity of cyber attacks," Hasbini said.

Meanwhile, a report by Accenture on digital safety revealed that the country contends with an average of 577 malware attacks per hour.

High-profile cyber incidents, such as the ransomware attacks targeting key South African entities including the City of Johannesburg, Transnet, and the Department of Justice, have underscored the vulnerability of public sector organisations and State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) to the relentless pursuits of hackers and cyber criminals.

Kaspersky said hackers also prey on victims by targeting their cellphones. Lax security and the mixing of personal and corporate data on mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets, and laptops, create an attractive combination for cybercriminals. Allianz Commercial has seen a growing number of incidents caused by poor cybersecurity around mobile devices.

In a bid to combat hackers, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Special Investigation Unit (SIU) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to fight cyber-related crimes in the country.

SIU head Advocate Andy Mothibi lauded the collaboration as a step in the right direction to fighting cyber crimes and CSIR CEO Dr Thulani Dlamini added that the fight against corruption and cyber crimes is a major issue in South Africa.

“The work of the CSIR contributes to the creation of a capable state amongst other things. Through this partnership, the CSIR will utilise its research, development, and innovation capabilities particularly in the areas of data science, information security, blockchain and artificial intelligence to support the SIU’s efforts to combat corruption and cyber crimes,” he said.

Kaspersky’s tips on what to do if you have been hacked

Do not give any more information

Disconnect your device from the Internet

Change your passwords

Contact your bank or service provider

Check your device

Check for any suspicious activity