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Johannesburg Shuts Down Computers City-Wide After Bitcoin Ransomware Attack


Hackers have breached the computer network of South Africa’s commercial capital Johannesburg in an attempt to ransom the city for Bitcoin. Consequently, the city has shut down its website and suspended all e-services as a ‘precautionary measure’. At the time of writing the city’s website was still inaccessible.

The city of Johannesburg’s official web portal is down. | Source: Joburg.org

Per The Times, the group behind the cyber-attack is an outfit known as Shadow Kill Hackers. The group is demanding 4 Bitcoin – nearly $30,000 at the current Bitcoin price – by the close of business on October 28.

Pay us in Bitcoin or else…

In their ransom note received by several employees of the city, Shadow Kill Hackers claimed to have obtained valuable and confidential data from the city:

“All your servers and data have been hacked. We have dozens of back doors inside your city. We have control of everything in your city. We also compromised all passwords and sensitive data such as finance and personal population information.”

Failure to pay the Bitcoin ransom, the hackers have warned, will see the sensitive data released publicly.

Some of the e-services that will be affected by the shutdown include online billing services. Internet-based customer care services have also been suspended. An investigation into the Bitcoin ransomware attack has already been launched and is expected to take 24 hours.

SA banks experience internet problems

The cyber-attack on the city of Johannesburg and the demand for Bitcoin coincides with a couple of South African banks disclosing that their digital banking services had encountered internet problems. This included Standard Bank, Absa and three other banks.

The incident is occurring three months after the city’s energy utility City Power was hit by Bitcoin ransomware. The cyber-attack resulted in the utility’s databases getting encrypted and applications and the network getting compromised. However, electricity generation and supply were not affected.

This article was edited by Samburaj Das.

Last modified: October 25, 2019 09:27 UTC