Website hacks drive government cyber security re-think

2016-04-13 19:54 - Duncan Alfreds, Fin24
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Sita CEO Dr Setumo S Mohapi. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

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Cape Town – Hacking of government websites has prompted the State Information Technology Agency (Sita) to move them to secure web servers.

Data from Sita shows that the department of water affairs and the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) were affected by hackers.

“We’ve looked at the whole thing. Over the last three years there’ve been significant defacings,” Sita chief executive Dr Setumo S Mohapi told Fin24.

The organisation plans to establish two additional data recovery sites as part of its strategic objectives for the 2016/17 annual targets.

Sita’s infrastructure capital expenditure for data centre modernisation is pegged at R5.4m and it will spend an additional R181.3m on data centres in the current year.

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Mohapi said that attacks so far have exploited weaknesses in old systems.

“We’re talking about simple defacing; people using some of the weaknesses in those websites - maybe accessing some data. There’ve been recent cases about that.

“It’s about time that we do a very simple, but strong thing to solve that problem once and for all,” he said.

Sita currently does about R4bn of business with government, but the organisation would like a bigger slice of the R17bn government spends of ICT.

The organisation believes that by using economies of scale, it can generate savings on IT procurement.

However, education of staff is critical to ensuring that computer systems retain integrity.

“Our job is not only on infrastructure. Our job is also on what is called norms and standards, operating procedures, guidelines on how to do basic things. Of course, one of your keys to your safety area is your password, isn’t it?

“We have to do a lot more on developing the norms and standards in order to guide people. But obviously there’s also monitoring,” said Mohapi.

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The department of home affairs is rolling out its smart ID in conjunction with major banks and Mohapi said that Sita will play a role in trying to limit the incidence of ID theft.

“Our job is to work with home affairs to ensure that there are systems in place to prevent those things from operating. So we need to provide solutions to home affairs. We need to look at where there are vulnerabilities on the IT systems to assist them.”

In its presentation to the parliamentary portfolio committee on telecommunications and postal services, Sita said that IT is an effective weapon against fraud in the department of home affairs and social services.

Mohapi said that Sita will work with the departments to root out corruption.

“The owners of those things are their respective departments, but IT is a big weapon against those things.

“The kind of Sita we are trying to do is not a Sita that is sitting back, saying what ‘IT solutions do you want?’ It is a Sita saying ‘What business problem in government do you have? And let’s work together to come up with a solution,” he added.

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Read more about: sita  |  cybercrime  |  online privacy