Top secret information about how South Africa acquires its military equipment has been declared missing in a breach of Armscor’s computer systems.
The Sensitive tender information was from Sunday July 10 to Tuesday July 12, hacked from Armscor computers and hidden in the internet’s dark web.
The dark web is part of the World Wide Web but special software and expertise is needed to gain access to it. It is often used by criminals and Armscor says its website’s objective is to meet the needs of the defence force for equipment and technology, research, development, analysis, testing and evaluation.
The information was hacked by Anonymous group – an online activist group targeting governments and organizations it alleges are corrupt. The group posted pictures of its logo, a Guy Fawkes mask on several Armscor internal computer systems.
Suggestions say that the Anonymous hack attack on Armscor centers on the parastatal’s involvement in the multimillion-rand leasing of a new jet for President Jacob Zuma, and its role in multibillion-rand arms procurement deals.
The same Anonymous recently crashed the online presence of Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party after the government shut the country’s internet access because of protests about public servants’ pay and import restrictions.
Though Armscor said the hack was not serious, information was taken from its settlement and invoicing systems.
The information relates to payments to international and local military manufacturing companies, such as Denel, Thales and Airbus.
According to an interview with Anonymous by Hackread.com, hackers stole passwords and identity details of nearly 20 000 Armscor suppliers, which can be used to allow people to represent themselves as suppliers or Armscor managers and log into Armscor systems.
Speaking on the hack incidence, a cyber security expert Danny Myburgh, of Cyanre, The Computer Forensics Lab, said the Armscor attack on the military equipment information is “up there with some of the world’s biggest hacks”.
He said what could be done with the information depended on what it was.
“It could compromise strategic defence plans in terms of highly confidential tenders.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being catastrophic, this is a 10.”
Speaking further, Myburgh said what remains a major concern is what the hackers had left behind in terms of tampering with Armscor computer infrastructure.
“They might have left behind remote-controlled spyware and logic bombs — files that lie dormant until a timer instructs them to either delete databases or distribute further information.
“From what we know [about the passwords dump] anyone [with access to the dark web] can log into Armscor’s computer systems with the required security credentials.” he said, adding that the information released could never be retrieved.
Cyber Hack Not Too Serious
Again, cyber crimes expert Jacques van Heerden said this was the second recent cyber security breach against government departments.
Describing the Armscor breach, he said the hackers would have created a special database behind the Armscor website and used it to steal sensitive information from parastatals’ databases, including security codes.
He is investigating a breach of a government department in which information on employee salaries was stolen and the hackers threatened to make the data public.
However, Armscor spokesman Lulu Mzili said the attack on the Military top secret did not appear to be serious. “Our investigation will determine exactly what has been taken. The implications are still unknown. If the matter is really serious it will be escalated.
Armscor spokesman Lulu Mzili said the attack on the Millitary top secret did not appear to be serious. “Our investigation will determine exactly what has been taken. The implications are still unknown. If the matter is really serious it will be escalated.