R15million cyber-theft foiled

R15million cyber-theft foiled
R15million cyber-theft foiled

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Dispatch Online
June 13 2008

THE Eastern Cape government is under attack from a syndicate of 
cyberspace hackers who have already swindled millions of rands from its 
provincial coffers.

An attempt by the syndicate using cyber spyware to steal R15million from 
the Housing, Local Government and Traditional Affairs in Bhisho was 
foiled just two days ago.

Details of the attempted hi- tech computer scam emerged yesterday, a day 
after government revealed it had identified at least 26 cases of a 
syndicate swindling government departments in four provinces, including 
the Eastern Cape, of over R199m in the past three years.

Provincial Treasury spokesperson Cecile Greyling confirmed that someone 
had hacked into the system and tried to transfer funds from the Housing 
Department=E2=80=99s basic account system.

The Daily Dispatch has learnt that the scam involved channelling 
payments to existing suppliers into bogus accounts.

The attempted theft was stopped in time by an alert computer systems 

Greyling said all payments were immediately stopped. =E2=80=9C Systems have been 
put in place to pick up any unauthorised activity,=E2=80=9D said Greyling.

The hacking is now being investigated by the SA Police Service=E2=80=99s 
Commercial Crime Unit.

=E2=80=9CThe investigation is in an early and very sensitive stage,=E2=80=9D said 
Captain Lionel Hughes.

On Tuesday, KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Finance and Economic Development Dr 
Zweli Mkhize said the u nit had made 32 arrests for 86 counts of fraud 
in Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

Bhisho asked local computer forensic expert Leon Nel to investigate 
after the syndicate targeted government departments.

Nel did not want to identify the departments.

But the Dispatch has been told that late last year hackers managed to 
access the bank accounts of at least 900 Health Department officials.

Details of the bank accounts were changed and payments to all the 
officials=E2=80=99 accounts were transferred to other accounts.

After a forensic analysis, the trail led investigators to the 
department=E2=80=99s Mthatha office where a female employee was identified as a 
possible suspect. This case is also under investigation.

Similar attempts to access social pension payments in the Department of 
Social Development were also discovered.

The Public Works Department has also been targeted by the hackers. One 
official has since left the department and the case is also under 

Nel said while following the hackers=E2=80=99 trail at the end of last year he 
discovered a similar modus operandi in place at a Kokstad hospital, 
which falls under the KwaZulu-Natal Health Department. Following his 
investigation, a suspect handed himself over to the police.

Nel said to prevent successful thefts by hackers , the responsible 
employees, in particular the systems controller, should be subjected to 
polygraph tests every six months.

He said it was also important that departments did background checks on 
employees who were in charge of the computer systems.

=E2=80=9CStaff should also be trained to detect cyber spyware and the department 
should see to it that anti-virus devices are in place,=E2=80=9D he added.

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