New Perspectives on Data Breaches in South Africa


The past few years have seen a growth in demand for internet access across Africa. This has increased sharply thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, there has also been a surge in cybersecurity related incidents across the continent, such as ransomware, botnets, and data breaches, to name a few.

For over five years, at, we have told stories of major data breaches and leaks across Africa. Some we reported publicly, while others were too sensitive and we simply informed the relevant authorities without reporting publicly.

These include the 2016 data leak of customer details from KCB Bank in Kenya, in which an estimated 500,000 personal records of their customers were leaked following a ‘hobbyist’ bug in their banking app. mobile.

Then there was, at the time, the biggest data leak on record in South Africa in 2017, where we traced the database to a data aggregation company called Dracore Data Sciences, which has built up a database of approximately 60 million personal records of South African property clients. Somehow, between Dracore and Jigsaw Properties, the database was left available in a public directory online, on a web server owned by Jigsaw.

Several other ransomware attacks and data breaches followed, but notably we revealed how ViewFines left a database containing 934,000 of their users’ personal records (including plaintext passwords) in a publicly accessible directory. on their web server. Only for someone to find this database and leak it on another public website.

By investigating and reporting data breaches and leaks in various African countries (both those we have reported on publicly and those we have investigated privately), we have come to observe and learn several things. . As such, we have published a research report in which we share some of this information as well as lessons learned from research into data breaches and breaches in South Africa.

Cover and table of contents of the research report “Data breaches in South Africa”.

In the research report titled “Data Breaches in South Africa”, we use another high-profile data breach in South Africa, the one that took place at Experian South Africa in 2020, as a case study.

Our aim is also to highlight what organizations, not just in South Africa but around the world, need to take care of in order to minimize or even eliminate data breaches.

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