Computer Crime Research Center


Civil servants in cyber crime syndicate

Date: June 11, 2008

Crime syndicate raking in millions

Corrupt civil servants, in cahoots with a cyber crime syndicate, have robbed four provincial governments of more than R199-million in three years.

The KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provincial governments have all fallen victim to cyber criminals.

After identifying 27 instances in which millions were stolen from five of its departments, the KwaZulu- Natal finance and economic development department has its hands full dealing with what it calls “one of the easiest crimes to commit”.

Motlalepula Motaung, manager of KwaZulu-Natal’s internal audit services, yesterday explained the scam.

She said: “The syndicate approaches the departments’ suppliers and corrupt officials, who are asked to download information that can help [the syndicate] get into secure [provincial government computer] sites without a pass- word so they can defraud the government.

“The corrupt government officials pocket their share.”

There has been a steady increase in the number of cyber crimes involving government departments in the province.

In 2006, eight cases were reported and last year a further 18 cases were being investigated.

The KwaZulu-Natal education department has been the hardest hit, losing about R43-million.

Cyber security expert Ian Melamed said criminals prefer to target procurement departments. They use information gleaned from spyware to create phoney user names and passwords in order to create new beneficiaries.

Melamed said: “This is only the tip of the iceberg. It is usually only when a supplier’s account details are being reconciled with payments that the fraud is picked up.”

Melamed rated the government’s ability to detect and deal with cyber crime at “minus one out of 10”.

“There is a massive shortage of trained cyber inspectors in South Africa and government department staff aren’t trained to be on the look-out for spyware, which could be slipped [into computer systems] using electronic birthday cards and even by leaving seemingly blank CDs in disc drives.”

Despite 32 arrests, the syndicate continues to milk government departments.

Melamed said more needed to be invested in cyber police.

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