The city council of Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa, was hit with a ransomware attack on Friday (Oct. 25) that affected its website, call centers and digital platforms.
Reuters is reporting that the computers of government workers were affected, and the perpetrators asked for bitcoin payments to reinstate email links and internet access.
Johannesburg city officials said they are investigating the incident and that they could not confirm the authenticity of the attack.
“You’re sitting as an employee and then boom, a message appears on your computer screen and it turns blue. You try to reboot, switch off and nothing. Some messages demand money, other threatened to attack employees (physically),” said City of Johannesburg spokesman Nthatisi Modingoane.
There are five million people in Johannesburg, and the city is a large contributor to the country’s $326 billion economy.
“We picked it up quickly and shut the whole system down,” Modingoane said. “We’re working around the clock and the system should be back up during the weekend.”
There was a similar attack in July on the city’s electric company, City Power, which was directed at pre-paid customers. Ransomware attacks in South Africa have increased 19 percent in the last year.
In other South Africa news, Naspers has launched a $100 billion European tech giant. Prosus holds the international internet assets of Naspers, including its 31 percent shareholding in Tencent, as well as Mail.ru, Ctrip.com International Limited and Delivery Hero. Africa’s most valuable company will be Prosus’ majority shareholder, with at least a 73 percent stake in the group alongside its South African businesses, Takealot and Media24.
Naspers first announced it would launch the new group back in March, simply calling it “NewCo” at the time. As the company explained, the group is focused on building meaningful businesses in the online classifieds, payments, FinTech and food delivery sectors in markets including India, Russia and Brazil.