Malema‚ Mapaila phone hacking claims

25 October 2017 - 15:17 By Kgaugelo Masweneng
EFF leader Julius Malema. File photo.
EFF leader Julius Malema. File photo.
Image: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES

“Fellow South Africans‚ I’m under attack from kleptocratic state. I can’t even retrieve my emails because they are trying to hack my account.” So read a tweet in the early hours of this morning from EFF leader Julius Malema.

And he was not alone. At 3.14am‚ the South African Communist Party (SACP) tweeted on its official Twitter account: “Solly Mapaila‚ SACP 1st Deputy General Secretary email account hacked‚ rendered unusable. Rogue units at work @news24 @IOL @TimesLIVE”.

“The rogue units include convicted criminals‚ fake news ops to tarnish Solly Mapaila’s name and have attacked and hacked his email account‚” the organisation alleged.

Alex Mashilo‚ the SACP spokesperson‚ says that they have an idea of who might be behind the hacks on the SACP leader.

“We have handed the case over to the inspector-general of intelligence to investigate the matter. We cannot say much but do have suspicions of who it is. We also have an idea that there’s a rogue intelligence unit involved‚” said Mashilo.

Referring to fake news allegations‚ Mashilo said that a certain website had published unpleasant and untrue information about Mapaila before.

“There is a website that published a fake news story with a graphic presentation of who he calls and how long he speaks with certain people‚ me included. The story was advertised to Google and so it would appear first when you search for him on the internet‚” Mashilo said.

“We hand-delivered a letter of grievance to Google South Africa [demanding they] remove the information. They looked into the matter and since brought down the fake stories about him. We did not realise that actually his email was also hacked into because he would complain about not receiving emails‚ yesterday he was blocked off completely. We even wrote to Vodacom about his cellphone bugging‚” said Mashilo.

Craig Rosewarne‚ director of the IT security company Wolfpack Information Risk‚ says that hacking is becoming prevalent and sophisticated but that the public was not aware of its real threat.

“Damage caused by a cyber attack today can severely impact a nation’s critical infrastructure. Given that society is increasingly dependent on cyber-enabled technologies for many functions of daily life‚ these technologies should be underpinned by redundancy‚ resilience and close scrutiny‚ in order to avoid harmful disruptions‚” said Rosewarne.

Given the scale and scope of the challenge‚ Rosewarne suggests that responsibility must be shared by both public and private sectors alike.

“We must prevent‚ detect‚ respond and recover‚ increasing resilience. Different people hack for different reasons‚ the person or organisation behind the attack always has a motive. Some hack for criminals reasons of stealing money and so forth‚ some do it to stalk‚ while organisations might do it to steal information from opposition parties. Anyone can be hacked‚” Rosewarne added.

In August the civil rights organisation Right2Know Campaign released statistics it collected from the country’s top four cellular network providers‚ which showed that South African phones are being spied on.

The campaign reported that about 70,000 South African phones are being spied on each year by law enforcement agencies‚ exploiting a loophole in the country’s surveillance policies.

In September writer and radio host Redi Tlhabi’s twitter account‚ @reditlhabi‚ was hacked but she has since managed to reopen it.

Her account was hacked a week after she released the book Khwezi: The Remarkable Story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo.

Wolfpack Information Risk advises people to be wary of fraudsters pretending to be from a legitimate business and attempting to trick you into sharing your personal details. Do not overshare on social network‚ and create complex passwords which avoid using recognisable English words. Rather try combining other languages‚ numbers and special characters in your passwords.

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