By Andile Sicetsha for The South African
The South African Police Service’s (SAPS) cybercrime unit has been forced to drop investigations into hundreds of cases because software licenses have not been paid.
A report in the Sunday Times revealed that investigations into organised crimes, hacking and EFT scams have been halted due to expired software licenses for equipment used to decode and interpret cellphone data.
Other forensic capabilities have also been hindered by this. Data that would’ve been vital in the trial of alleged Islamic State members, Aslam Del Vecchio and Fatima Patel, is not available because of this.
Earlier this year, a service provider appointed by the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) threatened to halt essential services due to lack of payment, and the parliamentary portfolio committee on police said several police and SITA agreements were major security risks.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, a source with knowledge of the cybercrime unit’s operations said the police were migrating from technology that could be used in the field to a solution which tied officers to their desks.
In the past, investigators used a system called Cellebrite Touch. This was a device that could be used to interpret cellphone data in the field. It was quick and efficient.
This time, however, it seems that the unit has been moved to a desktop system, meaning that there would be a larger gap in turnaround times, and in this form of crime, time is everything.
Craig Pederson, the head of digital forensics at Computer Guyz, expressed the importance of the work conducted by the cybercrime unit.
“We live in an age where technology is used broadly and plays a definite role in many of the more serious crimes. The unit is a vital link in the complex task of collecting evidence”, Pederson stated.
Brenda Muridili, the SAPS’ spokesperson, could only state that the police would not be commenting on the issue.
“We are not able to disclose any information with regard to covertly required IT solutions”, she said.