Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams. Photo: Son
  • Minister of communications and digital technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams says her WhatsApp messages have been hacked.
  • She only has one phone, with a single WhatsApp account, so both work and private messages may be exposed, her office says.
  • A spokesperson confirmed that WhatsApp is investigating.
  • For more articles, go to www.businessinsider.co.za.

Minister of communications and digital technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams says her WhatsApp messages have been hacked, and her office has confirmed that the Facebook-owned messaging platform has launched an investigation.

On Monday morning, the department of communications and digital technologies tweeted that the WhatsApp account of Ndabeni-Abrahams was hacked, “resulting in private and confidential information being in the hands of a third party”.

Spokesperson Mish Molakeng says both WhatsApp and Ndabeni-Abrahams’ mobile service provider have confirmed that they are investigating. He confirmed that Ndabeni-Abrahams only has one phone, and a single WhatsApp account, which means that both her work and personal messages may have been intercepted.

He did not want to confirm how the hack was uncovered, but said the authorities are investigating.

Over the past year, there have been reports of a relatively simple way to hijack a WhatsApp account, using the SMS authentication code which WhatsApp uses to verify new users.

WhatsApp is reportedly currently developing technology to require fingerprint verification to view messages. It is also expected to soon announce the option of sending a video or photo that will disappear after it was viewed once by the recipient.

Controversies

The WhatsApp hack is the latest in a long line of controversies involving Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Last month, she subjected herself voluntarily to the ANC's integrity commission to address allegations of impropriety that had been levelled against her office.  News24 reported that several media articles alleged that Ndabeni-Abrahams' husband, Thato Abrahams, had business dealings in the sector under Ndabeni-Abrahams's purview and this had influenced her dealings with entities, notably the South African Post Office.

She was also hauled before the ANC's subcommittee on communications, where she was instructed to obey Parliament with regards to the appointment of councillors to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) council.  She initially refused to appoint the councillors recommended by parliament.

At the start of South Africa’s stringent lockdown, Ndabeni-Abrahams was put on special leave for two months (one of which was unpaid), after a photo emerged of her having a meal with friends. She was later fined for the offence as well.

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