The R300-million that is known to have been stolen from the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure could be the tip of the iceberg, with the organisation a “soft target” for cybercriminals.

That’s the word from Dean Macpherson, minister of public works and infrastructure, who says cybercrime has result in at least this among stolen over the past 10 years – but ongoing investigations could reveal further losses.

He adds that the latest episode that took place as recently May 2024, when the cyberattackers stole R24-million. This incident prompted a forensic investigation by the Hawks, South African Police Services, State Security Agency and experts in the ICT and cyber security industry.

“It has become clear that the department has been a soft target and playground for cyber criminals for over a 10-year period and this should have been picked up a lot earlier. I felt it important to let South Africa know what has happened and what we are doing about it,” says Macpherson. “I cannot discount the possibility of collision between officials and criminals in this prolonged period of theft. It is clear that we need better financial controls which I have said to the department are a matter of urgency.”

Thirty laptops have been seized and four officials suspended, three senior management officials and one middle management official. The department has also shut down all its payment systems.

In May the department ordered a full forensic probe into vulnerabilities in the department’s information and technology systems, including:

* Causes of the breach and vulnerabilities.

* Vulnerability and susceptibility to cyber-crime of the ICT infrastructure within the department.

* Lack of staff capacity and weak ICT systems.