South Africa-based debt collector hit by massive ransomware attack

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Debt-IN Consultants, a debt collection solutions partner of many South African financial services institutions, says a ransomware attack by cybercriminals resulted in a significant breach of personal data of consumers and employees.

In a statement, Debt-IN Consultants says it is suspected that the consumer and personal information of more than 1.4 million South Africans was illegally accessed from Debt-IN’s servers in April.

However, he notes that this breach only came to light last week, with the discovery that confidential consumer data and voice recordings of calls between Debt-IN’s debt collectors and financial services clients had been released. on hidden websites that can only be accessed by an Internet browser.

Debt-IN says it is working closely with the information regulator, law enforcement agencies and other cybersecurity partners to quickly gather facts, resolve the issue and provide information continues to customers.

The Personal Information Protection Act states that in the event of a security breach, a person or company responsible for personal information must notify the information regulator, as well as all parties whose personal information has been accessed. or acquired by an unauthorized party. .

Debt-IN adds that while investigations are ongoing and analysis is subject to change, findings to date show that there have been no further breaches and that enhanced data protection measures remain in place. place safely.

The company says it has taken immediate and appropriate steps to strengthen existing security measures and mitigate any further potential impact of the breach, including bringing together a team of highly esteemed and experienced cyber and forensics experts to work with Debt-IN about The Incident.

“Debt-IN deeply regrets this cyber attack and we wholeheartedly apologize for the inconvenience and anxiety the data breach has caused to our customers and their clients,” said CEO Mark Essey.

“We take this matter very seriously. In this age of highly sophisticated information security threats and approximately 17 billion cyberattacks worldwide every day, Debt-IN is committed to doing everything possible to protect our customers’ information. We reiterate that we consider this attack to be the act of malicious cyber criminals. From the time this data breach was detected, our guiding principle has been to put our customers first, and we will continue to do so, ”says Essey.

South African organizations are increasingly falling victim to ransomware attacks.

In late July, South Africa’s ports and railways were paralyzed when a cyberattack hit Transnet, the country’s rail, port and pipeline company.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development was also recently affected by a ransomware attack, which affected all electronic services provided by the Department, including issuance of letters of authorization, surety services, mail electronic and ministry website.

Also this month, the South African National Space Agency – a government agency responsible for promoting and developing aeronautical and space research in South Africa – informed the public of a breach of its computer systems.

“The IT industry has seen a massive increase in ransomware attacks since the lockdown began, when the digital footprint of businesses grew as remote working became the norm,” said Marilyn Moodley, Country Manager for South Africa and West, East and Central Africa at SoftwareONE. .

Problematically, she says, many organizations unfortunately don’t realize until too late that ransomware protection is a business issue, not an IT issue.

Moodley points out that last year JBS SA, PPS and Life Health Care Group were among the companies that made headlines after similar attacks – at huge cost not only financially, but also in terms of downtime and job losses.

The Sophos State of Ransomware 2021 Global Report showed that the average cost of remedying a ransomware attack in South Africa is R6.4 billion.

In the first 100 days of the lockdown, Mimecast researchers detected a dramatic increase in spam attacks (up 46%), spoofing attacks (up 75%) and malware, which increased by 385%.

Almost half (45%) of South African respondents said the ransomware attacks had an impact on their organization.

“And not only are large companies at risk, but attackers also see SMEs as an ideal target because they are unlikely to have sophisticated defenses,” says Moodley.

Debt-IN states that affected customers and clients can direct their inquiries to the company at [email protected], or via the toll-free number 0800 079 661.

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