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Hackers strike at South African government

Tier-3 : 11 June, 2008  (Technical Article)
In a syndicated malware attack in South Africa, hackers have been reported to have hauled millions from the country's government systems
Reports from South Africa suggest that a cybercrime syndicate there has defrauded the government of more than 199 million Rand (UKP £12.8 million) in a series of spyware infection-driven frauds.

The frauds, which were revealed on Tuesday by the South African Minister for Finance and Economic Development, has resulted in 32 arrests in connection with more than 80 fraud counts.

Commenting on the case - thought to be South Africa's largest reported cybercrime spree by a single gang - Geoff Sweeney, CTO with IT security vendor Tier-3, said that spyware attacks are notoriously difficult to stop in their tracks owing to their unpredictable nature.

'The evolution of malware has reached the point where the lines are blurring between viruses, trojans and what we call multi-vector IT security threats. These fraudsters appeared to be using a sophisticated combination of attacks that consisted of a physical device and a malware component, as witnessed by the fact they have been getting away with their crimes for nigh on three years,' he said.

According to Sweeney, like many of the more sophisticated IT security attacks, frauds of this nature are very difficult to stop using a traditional single line of defence security strategy.

'Companies need to rethink their strategy in the light of the increasing sophistication on the part of the fraudsters. They should consider installing multiple layers of defence, including looking at behavioural analysis technology which can look for abnormal patterns of hardware change or network behavior such as those that may have been used in this attack,' he said.

'Behavioural analysis is fast becoming a security technology in the ascendant, for the simple reason it acts as a safety net for all forms of IT security threats. Had the South African government and its agencies installed this form of security technology, they could have avoided the fraud from taking place,' he added.
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