News24 reported that users trying to access the site for statements from the presidency encountered a notice saying: “Hacked by Black Team. Sahara is Moroccan. And Morocco is ur Lord!”
By the time The Citizen tried to access the site, the hackers’ message was no longer available.
Their message related to disputed land in Western Sahara, a sparsely populated area of mostly desert situated on the northwest coast of Africa.
A former Spanish colony, it was annexed by Morocco in 1975. Since then it has been the subject of a long-running territorial dispute between Morocco and its indigenous Saharawi people, led by the Polisario Front.
In January, the African Union decided that its member states should boycott the Crans Montana Forum in occupied Western Sahara. South Africa and Morocco, however, resumed diplomatic ties recently after more than a decade after Morocco withdrew its ambassador from Pretoria.
Morocco recalled its ambassador from South Africa in 2004 after then president Thabo Mbeki recognised a breakaway region in the Western Sahara, which Morocco claims as part of its territory.
The ANC has long backed those seeking independence in the Western Sahara and accused Morocco of occupying the region.
Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, told News24 their technicians were investigating the incident and looking to restore the website to full operation after the “interference”.
He did not know who was behind the attack.
Last year, The Citizen reported that the same website as well as gov.za – the official portal to the South African government – along with private rhino owner John Hume’s website rhinohornauction.com were taken down in protest at a proposed rhino auction.
According to Paladin, the presidency site was attacked “for the president’s lack of care of locals’ opinions and watching rhino horn being sold via website”.
“These attacks are the start,” Paladin warned.
Financial services company Liberty recently suffered the biggest data breach ever in South Africa, losing between 20 and 40 terabytes of data contained in e-mails and attachments.
According to PwC’s Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey for 2018, South Africa is the second most targeted country in the world when it comes to cyberattacks. The reason for this, an expert has said, is a combination of naive users, poor policing and immature laws.