Some services still not restored after justice department ransomware attack

12 November 2021 - 16:28
By Nonkululeko Njilo
Two months after the ransomware attack, the department has not yet been able to fully restore affected services. Stock photo.
Image: 123rf Two months after the ransomware attack, the department has not yet been able to fully restore affected services. Stock photo.

Two months after the department of justice and constitutional development was hit by a ransomware attack, it has not yet been able to fully restore affected services. 

The department’s director-general, Doctor Mashabane, made the revelation on Friday before parliament’s portfolio committee on justice.

The attack caused major disruptions to all divisions — including the web portal used by transcribers to download court recordings for transcription purposes. 

“Unfortunately, in September 2021, the department suffered a ransomware attack, which not only impacted on the delivery of existing services enabled by technology, but also progress on our modernisation programme.

“With the support of the relevant state agencies and industry experts, we managed to restore certain services within a reasonable amount of time. Given the complexity of the issue at hand, we are gradually restoring other services,” said Mashabane.     

At the time of the attack, the department said it had activated its business continuity plan and put contingency measures in place to ensure that the IT system challenges would not affect court operations around the country. Manual recording equipment would be used to ensure that court sittings continued as scheduled.

MPs, however, said they had noted several complaints and suggested that some services were brought to a standstill. 

The department assured the committee that it was making progress to ensure that service delivery backlogs were addressed. 

“In respect of the impact to the modernisation programme, we will implement measures to catch up with the programme’s time frames,” Mashabane said.

MPs were, however, not convinced by the assurances.    

The department also presented its annual report which shows that it had 92 annual planned targets for 2020/21 financial year and achieved 61, which translated to a 66% achievement.

This was an indication of improved performance from 51% in the previous financial year.   

MP Qubudile Dyantyi, however, cast doubt on the improvement.

“We must be very sceptical as a committee as to whether that turnaround is in fact happening.”

Another MP, Werner Horn, shared similar sentiments.

“I am very sceptical as to ... what is the state of play out there and I must stress that, of course, it all has been exacerbated by the attack which basically brought everything to a standstill.

“But even before the attack, the amount of complaints cannot be explained away,” Horn said.