The Chairperson of Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Communications, Sikhumbuzo Kholwane, has condemned the hi-tech cyber heist of R42 million from the Postbank.

A weekend paper reported that the cyber crime syndicate launched its operations on New Year's Day and the theft happened over three days. It is also reported that the syndicate had knowledge of the post office's IT systems.

Kholwane said he appreciated the discovery of the robbery and welcomed the investigation undertaken by the National Intelligence Agency and the police.

The Chairperson called upon the Postbank and law enforcement agencies to tighten elements of the bank's security network.

The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) said at the weekend it had launched a high-level probe into the cyber heist.

The theft occurred between January 1 and January 3, and was allegedly committed by a syndicate with knowledge of the post office's information technology (IT) system.

Department of state security spokesman Brian Dube confirmed that the theft had occurred and that the probe had been launched.

“When a government institution is compromised, the NIA will be involved and will offer its assistance,” he told the Sunday Times newspaper.

Postbank currently holds over R4 billion in deposits, and processes millions of rands in social grants throughout the year.

The bank told the newspaper that none of its customers were effected by the hacking, but declined to comment further.

The syndicate reportedly opened several Postbank accounts across the country late last year, and during the New Year holiday period gained access to a Rustenburg Post Office employee's computer and made deposits from other accounts into its own.

Over the next three days, automated teller machines (ATMs) in Gauteng, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal were used to withdraw cash from the accounts.

The incident comes three years after Postbank spent over R15 million to upgrade its fraud-detection service.

An unnamed security expert told the newspaper that serious questions had to asked about Postbank's internal systems.

“The Postbank network and security systems are shocking and desperate need of an overhaul. This [theft] was always going to be a real possibility,” the expert said. - I-Net Bridge