By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU – In an unfamiliar turn of events, the courts have fallen victim to the cyber-attacks causing the justice system to be vulnerable.

This move has forced the presiding officers to rewrite some of the judgments and has lost the critical data of the court users.

These developments are revealed by the Registrar of the High Court and the Appeal Court, Advocate ‘Mathato Sekoai.

“The government of Lesotho through the Ministry of Communication[s], Science and Technology, provides government ministries and agencies with a Data Network Platform. The platform provides automated administrative services to enable-service of certain essential functions of institutions.

“The network has suffered a cyber-attack and the services provided through it have been severely affected. The Judiciary is also on the platform and it has not been spared,” reads the circular issued by the Registrar.

It continues: “Most of our computers and laptops were contaminated including those belonging to judges and their secretaries. This resulted in a loss of information and draft judgments in respect of judges.

“We have been reliably informed that this kind of virus is not removable and that there is no way the lost information can be recovered.”

This publication has learnt that the investigations are still ongoing to establish the cause of this cyber-attacks. This problem has not only affected the Judiciary but has also affected the other Ministries and the former were the first to discover it and raised alarm.

The Judiciary is also the mostly affected entity.

While it is not clear whether this could be malware or not, it is also feared that it could be ransomware. 

According to the circular, the Judges are forced to rewrite some of the judgments as they cannot be retrieved due to corrupted computer files. This has stalled the progress in some cases and has strained the court users.

Meanwhile, the Common Wealth Secretariat’s Head of Rule of Law, Dr Tawanda Hondora has recently said the Commonwealth is concerned by the scourge of cybercrime.

Dr Hondora pointed out that the challenge arises in investigations, prosecutions and adjudicating over these crimes.

For the period of two years, he said they will be mounting a program aimed at capacitating the African and Pacific countries to competently deal with the cyber-security crimes.

He further called on the Judiciary entities to devise their own cyber-security frameworks.

The government is mulling to pass the Computer Crimes and Cybersecurity Bill which proposes stiff penalties if one is found guilty by a competent court of law.

One such penalty proposed under this piece of legislation is Section 26, which renders offense to obtain Computer data that is protected against unauthorized use. The proposed fine for contravening this clause attracts a M12 million fine or 17 years imprisonment or both.