Last week, the city of Johannesburg was forced to shut down its website, e-service platform and billing systems after a ransomware attack on its system by a group of hackers who demanded 4 Bitcoins (about $30,000) as ransom.
The city, on Thursday, October 24, acknowledged the breach of its network and shut down its website and all e-services as a precautionary measure.
In the aftermath of the attack, a hacker group called Shadow Kill Hackers claimed they were responsible. The group sent a ransom note to the City of Johannesburg on Thursday demanding the cryptocurrency payment as ransom or it would upload all data stolen from the city’s servers by October 28.
“All your servers and data have been hacked. We have dozens of back doors inside your city. We have control of everything in your city. We also compromised all passwords and sensitive data such as finance and personal population information.”The ransom notes
Johannesburg officials refused to pay the crypto-ransom
In reaction, Johannesburg City has released a statement, saying it would not pay the bitcoin ransom the hackers have requested. It added that it had made significant progress in restoring systems. The deadline the hackers gave has since expired.
Councillor Funzela Ngobeni, MMC Finance, explained that their experts are working on the breach and are confident that 80% of its systems can be restored.
“I can confirm that we will not concede to their demands and we are confident that we will be able to restore the systems to full functionality,”Funzela Ngobeni, MMC Finance
Also, the city says it has brought in ICT international cyber forensic partners with state of the art tools to deal with the attack.
Some of Johannesburg’s systems are still offline
The precautionary shutdown of the city system led to the disruption of services including billing, property valuation, land information, health and others.
An update by the city’s Twitter handle revealed that call centre, website and e-service platform were still down and in the process of being restored. The city has advised customers to pay using alternative methods till the issue is resolved.
However, services such as Billing (SAP ISU and CRM), Property Valuation System, Land Information System, eHealth and Libraries services have been restored.
On the rise: more criminals are adopting crypto-ransoms
The demand for crypto-ransoms is a growing global problem. Last month, Nigeria experienced its first crypto-ransom case.$15,000 in bitcoins was paid for the daughter of a politician in Adamawa state.
Similar cases have been reported. Notably, a 13-year-old South African boy was abducted last year by unknown men who demanded a $120,000 ransom in Bitcoin. With criminals successfully collecting ransom using cryptocurrency, crypto-ransom demands could become impossible to contain.
But this also hurts to cryptocurrency market. The Johannesburg City ransomware attack could set off governments across the world who are already against it.
On the bright side, this development could also push governments and law enforcement agencies to create laws and regulation as well as invent tools and techniques to identify crypto addresses linked to criminal activities.
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