Ransomware attack interrupts justice department’s IT system

South African courts and the regional offices are unable to use digital and or network dependent services.

The department of justice and constitutional development’s network was still down on Thursday after it was hacked on Monday.

“We have established that its Information Technology systems have been interrupted due to a security breach. The breach was effected through ransomware on the evening of 6 September 2021,” said spokesperson Steve Mahlangu in a statement on Thursday.

The department announced system shutdown on Tuesday and said that: “It was experiencing challenges with the IT system which have affected services at all DoJ&CD offices and courts around the country.”

Mahlangu said they were confident that the affected services will be restored in the next few days without giving a specific timeline.

“A Team of IT experts is working around the clock to come up with solutions to bring the system back online.

“The department extends sincere apologies to all clients for any inconvenience caused.”

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All network-based services will remain offline while the diagnostic work continues.

Mahlangu explained that currently, affected services were “the departmental emails which are not working, some of the recordings in court are affected, some courts are unable to process maintenance payments and Master of the High Court Services are also affected.”

He said the hack has led to all information systems being encrypted and unavailable to both internal employees as well as members of the public.

This may mean another burden on the already overburdened and under-resourced justice system of the country following a perpetual backlog caused by the Covid pandemic and lockdowns, with cases being delayed or postponed.

However, Mahlangu said that the department has since activated the business continuity plan and put contingency measures in place to ensure that the IT system challenges do not affect court operations around the country.

“Manual recording equipment will be used to ensure that court seatings continue as scheduled.

“The Office of the Chief Master is currently using a manual process to provide bereaved families with the necessary documentation that they need to bury their loved ones.”

In May, Deputy Minister of Justice John Jeffery told parliament there was a 48.87% backlog in the regional courts and it was 14.4% in the district courts.

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