Massive security flaw exposes Joburg residents’ private info

City of Joburg online system exposes customer statements – including account numbers and PIN codes – to anyone with an Internet connection

By - August 20, 2013 Share on LinkedIn
City of Joburg

The City of Joburg’s (CoJ) online services system has come under fire from consumers because of a security flaw which allows municipal invoices to be viewed by anyone with an Internet connection.

The publicly available invoices contain private information including names, addresses, account numbers, PIN codes, and financial details.

A concerned Johannesburg resident alerted MyBroadband to the security flaw, showing that invoices are not password protected and can be viewed using a public URL.

According to this resident, who asked to remain anonymous, he unsuccessfully tried to alert the CoJ about the security problem.

“I honestly tried to report it to the COJ, but their call centre could not assist. I then sent them an e-mail but I don’t anticipate that something will happen quickly there,” he said.

He explained why people should be concerned about the publicly available information:

  • I can use these invoices to get myself RICAed or for any other purpose where one needs a utility bill;
  • It is relatively simple to write a small script to increment the counter, extract information from the PDF, and then store it for later data-mining;
  • Once you have access to a customer’s statement, you will have their account number and PIN and will then be able to access their account electronically as well as do any sort of social engineering;
  • I would guess for customers in credit I could attempt to change their banking details and then request a refund.

Consumers are not happy about the situation. “This is sickening. I’ve just viewed a selection of total strangers’ municipal accounts,” said one Internet user.

“You can do lots of scamming with the info, targeted phishing attacks, produce fake ID books and proof of residence to match,” another user warned.

Google has also started to index the PDF statements, which means the indexed statements are searchable by name.

According to an Ekurhuleni resident the same vulnerability exists in the Ekurhuleni Municipality’s online system, but it requires a user to log in before being able to access the invoices.

MyBroadband contacted the City of Joburg for comment on the issue, but no one could be reached who could assist.

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