SA vulnerable to a cyber attack

27 September 2021 - 12:14
South Africa's intelligence institutions are hopelessly outmatched says the writer.
Image: 123RF/welcomia South Africa's intelligence institutions are hopelessly outmatched says the writer.

SA is totally and utterly ill-prepared to ward off and defeat a 9/11-type cyber attack. Major state institutions have been probed and rendered defenceless. Large private companies are being stealthily penetrated as hackers gather to mount a paralysing malware assault unprecedented in the digital age.

Our intelligence institutions are hopelessly outmatched by formidable digital foes whose coded skills in cyber warfare have the capability to devastate nation states and industrial giants. Cyber malware is being used to steal money on a massive scale, influence elections, distort and manipulate news, damage critical infrastructure and to monitor the world's secret communication systems.

There is total agreement on the growing risk of a massive cyber attack on all our institutions, including critical infrastructure operators such as power plants, banks, hospitals, nuclear installations, water treatment plants, airports and air traffic control systems among other critical institutions that rely on computers in the internet age.

Cyber security risks occur when a threat exploits a vulnerability, leading to negative consequences.

States no longer need to launch missiles to attack an adversary. A new weapon has been introduced into the world’s arsenal, and that sightless weapon has no boundaries or rules, costs little and has monstrous potential.

The weapon uses digital codes as its ammo to devastate economies and to penetrate any system that uses software. Asymmetrical cyber war is the new nuclear weapon of the 21st century. The entire world needs to undergo a paradigm shift on how it views the cyber domain. The global economy is dependent on cyber trade routes.

These routes are vulnerable to sustained attacks without warning. Signals and information can be intercepted, interrupted and exploited. The once secure nuclear strike systems of the world can also be tampered with, triggering an unintended nuclear catastrophe. The cyber domain has been created in a short time and has not had the same level of security as other battle domains. Unless we are  digitally armed and prepared, coded warfare will overwhelm humanity.

Farouk Araie, Actonville, Benoni