The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), the country's official state news broadcaster, has confirmed that it suffered a wave of cyberattacks orchestrated by a hacktivist aligned with the Anonymous collective.
On Sunday, 12 June, a Twitter account called Anonymous Africa claimed responsibility for launching a series of distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against the broadcaster's websites in a protest of alleged news censorship.
In response, SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago confirmed to news website Fin24 that its online sites were targeted by waves of traffic designed to take them offline. "Our guys have found that there are people who hacked our system," he said. "It is a serious matter that we are not taking lightly."
The spokesperson also branded the Anonymous-linked hacker a "coward" for attacking the news organisation however it remains unclear if the attack was launched by a single person or was the result of a group effort.
Throughout the attacks, one hacker used a Twitter account to post updates about the ongoing cyberattacks. In an update to followers, the hacker posted a link to an Al-Jazeera news article from May this year that covered the state media's decision to stop showing anti-government protests in a move that critics feared would make the broadcaster little more than a government mouthpiece.
The chief operating officer of the SABC, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, has previously come under fire for blocking the showing of the burning of public property because of a so-called "good news policy". On 11 June, just prior to the launch of the DDoS attack, the hacker tweeted: "Later today the SABC will be subjected to a protest it cannot censor. This protest is in protest of the SABC not covering protests."
The Anonymous Africa hacktivist directed the cyberattacks at the websites of SABC's main TV channel alongside radio stations 5FM and SAFM, which the hacker claimed were offline for roughly four hours. Later, the hacker started a poll asking: "Does the #SABC deserve the attention of Anonymous Africa?" which at the time of writing contains more than 80% of approval votes from over 600 people.
This is not the first time a fork of Anonymous has targeted South Africa. Earlier this year, the group, which is a loose collective of politically-charged hackers, leaked names, phone numbers, email addresses and passwords of more than 1,000 employees from a Government Communications and Information Systems (GCIS) portal in protest of alleged corruption and internet censorship.