South Africa came out as one of 135 countries that the US claims Russian government employees targeted between 2012 and 2017 as part of two massive hack campaigns allegedly aimed at disrupting energy companies and critical infrastructure.

According to Daily Maverick, the aim was to undertake a sophisticated campaign to target, compromise, and maintain continued access to the networks of critical infrastructure and energy companies worldwide.

When asked if Eskom was targeted by Russia, the South African energy utility said that it, like many organisations, combats many cyber-attacks. Eskom, however, did not specify if it was targeted by Russian actors, specifically, or not.

“We are aware that, daily, cybercriminals are actively targeting various sectors, including ours. We have an information and cybersecurity team and tools that assist us with combatting attempted attacks and for security reasons will not share the details of these,” Eskom said.

This comes after South Africa took a neutral stance on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. SA President Cyril Ramaphosa had said that he hopes negotiations would bring about peace, not specifying if he was for or against either of the two countries currently embroiled in the conflict.

A Russian cybersecurity company, Kaspersky, has been recently accused of having its antivirus software used to hack into companies’ systems amid the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said that if Russia managed crack into the countries’ said companies, it would allow the Russian government to disrupt and damage their systems if they so wished.

The Russian Embassy in South Africa has, according to reports, not said anything in response to the claims by the US.

A US government agency responsible for nuclear power plants and a Saudi Arabian petrochemical plant were among the claimed targets and reportedly got attacked by hackers. The US government offered a reward of up to $10-million for information on three accused individuals from Russia. The FBI declared these individuals international flight risks.

“Hundreds of foreign victims and targets of the conspiracy were based in more than 135 countries, including Albania, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom,” the indictment said.

“This group included global oil and gas firms, utility and electrical grid companies, nuclear power plants, renewable energy companies, consulting and engineering groups, and advanced technology firms,” it continued.

The indictment, however, did not specify which companies were targeted in South Africa and if they had been successfully hacked or not.


By Zintle Nkohla

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