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Wednesday, 10 July 2024 14:41

Hackers stole R300m from public works department over 10 years.

By William Brederode.

Cybercriminals suspected of working with state officials have looted R300 million from the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) through repeated attacks over 10 years.

In a statement on Wednesday morning, the new Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Dean Macpherson said the revelation that the department was a "soft target" to cyberattackers came as he and deputy minister Sihle Zikalala were conducting assessments of the department's work. 

Macpherson said that 30 departmental laptops had been seized by investigators and three senior management officials at the DPWI had been suspended. An official in a middle management role has also been suspended.

The most recent attack occurred in May, when R24 million was looted from the department.

This incident prompted a full forensic investigation by the Hawks, the South African Police Service, the State Security Agency, and IT experts, ordered by former DPWI minister Zikalala.

"It has become clear that the department has been a soft target and playground for over a 10-year period, and this should have been picked up a lot earlier," said Macpherson.

He said that the collusion between criminals and departmental officials could not be ruled out in this matter and pledged to crack down on these syndicates.

"This is money that could have been spent on our infrastructure drive to improve the lives of South Africans," said Macpherson.