Hackers allegedly attacking Lotto website to expose jackpot winners

Hackers are trying to expose the identities of Lotto winners by attacking the operator’s website, as Ithuba executives face allegations of having tampered with Lotto numbers to enrich themselves and their families, Sunday Times reports.

This comes as more than 18 companies battle for the fourth licence to operate the National Lottery in South Africa, for which the Department of Trade, Industry & Competition published a request for proposals in August.

With the bidding process heating up, Ithuba reportedly observed increased cyberattacks and has come under fire on social media.

Ithuba said it noticed that traffic on its website has been unusually high in recent months, and it wouldn’t be the first time someone has tried to access its systems to expose Lottery winners.

“We monitor our systems every day and we are able to see these activities. There was unusual traffic, and it was clear that there was an attempt to hack the system,” Ithuba CEO Charmaine Mabuza told the Sunday Times.

In September 2022, the operator approached the court for an interdict against a person who hacked its website and accessed the names of up to 20 Lotto participants.

The person was instructed to delete or destroy the information, while the interdict prevented them from using, publishing, distributing, or copying the data.

“We took that person to court because we needed to protect our players’ information,” said Mabuza.

The CEO added that some people saw the interdict against the hacker as evidence to try and prove that Ithuba’s IT systems are insecure.

“We are in the bidding period … we can expect the noise to start,” she said.

Some have alleged that Mabuza herself rigged the Lotto draw to secure jackpots worth millions of rands for herself and her family, with some saying it was the reason behind the end of Ithuba’s live TV broadcasts.

However, the CEO said the live broadcasts ended when the company transitioned to random number generator (RNG) technology.

Charmaine Mabuza, Ithuba CEO. Source: Top Women

It isn’t the first time the Lotto has been in the spotlight for potential dodgy dealings.

In December 2020, it was revealed that a mystery company owned by a former actress and talk show host received more than R7 million from the Lottery, and there was no clarity on what the money was used for.

The company, called Velanor, received R4.7 million from the Lottery in the 2018/2019 financial year and R2.3 million the year after.

Investigations into what the company does bore no fruit, with Velanor lacking a website and a social media presence.

Attempting to visit the company’s premises was also unsuccessful, with security guards refusing entry without making an appointment.

Ithuba has held the operating licence for the National Lottery since 2015, and if it were to win again, it would be the first company to run it consecutively.

Ithuba faced a battle for control of the Lotto in October 2019.

It and Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI) engaged in a legal battle after the latter targeted Ithuba for the early repayment of a R341-million loan it secured when it was awarded the licence.

The loan was subject to strict repayment conditions and a 25% interest rate. However, it was determined that Ithuba had no obligation to pay it back quicker than specified.

HCI then demanded management and oversight of Lotto operations, through which it would earn 1% of all sales.

HCI’s court application included requesting that Ithuba be barred from paying Zamani, its management consultants company, the 4.67% of sales it was paying at the time.

It requested that Zamani’s earnings be reduced to 3%.

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Hackers allegedly attacking Lotto website to expose jackpot winners