Johannesburg crypto

The Bizarre Johannesburg Cryptocurrency Ransom Case

Feb 19, 2020, 8:16PM
6 min, 35 sec READ
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A cyberattack targeting the entire municipal system of the city of Johannesburg led to hackers asking for 4 Bitcoin from the city's government.

South Africa is one of the leading countries in the market for cryptocurrency adoption. According to the reports, Luno, which is the cryptocurrency exchange was launched back in 2013 and has been one of the most successful cryptocurrencies so far. 

Luna's general manager for Africam Maius Reitz has made a statement on the cryptos in Africa. He said that there are several reasons why cryptocurrencies are so popular in the South African region. One more thing should be mentioned that South Africa, is ranked second after Nigeria in terms of the highest number of Google searches for the term Bitcoin. This can simply determine the fact that people from the region want to know more about the currency or can indicate the interest of people in the cryptos generally. 

Reitz also said that Africans buy Luno cryptocurrency on a daily basis. There has been a huge increase in the Luno Wallets for the past two years. This means that more and more people acquire cryptocurrency and consequently the popularity increases within the citizens. The price of the crypto has declined recently, though still an average of $90 million worth of Bitcoin is traded in South Africa daily. This is indeed a big number and not many countries can boast with such a high interest and investigation in the cryptos. 

Financial Infrastructure

The popularity of cryptocurrency has also structured the trustful financial infrastructure in place. A great percentage of South Africans have activated their bank accounts, while there still remain some people with unbanked accounts. 

The good financial infrastructure is also partially determined by the high mobile penetration and very well established financial services within the market. 


Many cryptocurrencies have developed and been introduced to the public, though many of them did not survive and were diminished from the market. Luno was launched in 2013 and it was not expected the cryptocurrency to become one of the most traded ones in the market. It was the first cryptocurrency platform in Africa. Luno was also one of the most credible global cryptocurrency platforms. 

As mentioned before it is hard for the new cryptocurrency to survive the harsh crypto market. Many of the currencies that have been introduced together with Luno, do not exist anymore. Though, some of the exceptions are the Coinbase and Bitstamp. Those are the ones who led their own paths in the market.

Many sectors in Africa have adopted the cryptocurrencies have implemented them in their systems. One of the major sectors which also introduced Bitcoin to the customers is gambling. 

There are several casinos that offer online Bitcoin games for their South African customers. The tendency of playing Bitcoin casino games is seen to be increasing. Many online casinos and developers have created different Bitcoin games with some local themes and thus they can offer the best quality online games for the customers. The huge privilege of the Bitcoin online casinos is the security and privacy of the transactions and the payment methods. Thanks to the blockchain technology, all of the players can feel very safe with their funds and do not have to worry about their transactions and e-wallets. So far, blockchain technology is one of the most reliable technologies, and not only casinos switch to the crypto payment methods but also implement the blockchain casino technologies. 


Sending money across borders is a very costly thing for Africans. It is also very irrational in terms of the unreliable and time-consuming system. Within the new regulations and the adoption of the cryptos, Africans can now make the transactions without big efforts and without losing money as well as time. 

According to Reitz, the large remittance flows are observed from South Africa to other countries in the SADC region. At some point, it can be informal due to complex and costly transactions. He also talked about the importance of reducing the coasts and the complexity of the transactions. This is essential for the movement of money seamlessly across the whole continent. 


The African Free Continental Trade Agreement (AFCTA), which was endorsed in July by 22 part states, speaks to a huge open door for digital currency and blockchain. AFCTA tries to make the world's biggest facilitated commerce region by taking into consideration the free development of merchandise and individuals among African states. It doesn't supplant existing territorial unhindered commerce understandings yet is intended to change the economies of African countries.

"The anticipated increase in cross-border trade within Africa makes a strong case for the use of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. While there is still resistance from some governments, we are constantly engaging with regulators and fiscal authorities. Our experience is that they recognize cryptocurrencies are here to stay and are actively working to sensibly regulate the market," said Reitz. 


African Rand has been named as one of the most volatile major currencies in the world. According to the report published in August, it has lost 30% of the value since 2014. The trend and tendency of the volatility of the currency can be very worrisome for Africans. 

This, on the other hand, means that some of the cryptos can be volatile during the first period, though the fiat currencies are the ones that provide the stability of the market. 


The South African Reserve Bank has built up a working group including representatives of the business sectors, in order to cooperatively create an administrative system for digital money. Current signs are that guidelines will probably be centered around the foundations included instead of controlling digital currency itself.

Ransom Case

One of the most active cities in terms of cryptocurrency usage in Africa is Johannesburg. This is the city with most of its populations being involved in the crypto transactions. 

There was the incident when the hacker hacked the whole municipal system and demanded 4 Bitcoin ransom pay from the governmental authorities. 

The authorities turned down the request and refused to pay the hacker. The Twitter post was published on the official Twitter page.  The post was published on October 28th. The Johannesburg cyberattack was also confirmed by the city council. While in the statement it was mentioned that the attack has affected some of the services, including the billing, land information system and property valuation. Library services have also been affected. 

The payment that was requested by the hacker, 4 Bitcoins would range approximately $37.000 to that time. 

Johannesburg Attack 

The responsible authority for communication technologies is Group Information and Communications Technology. Funzela Ngobeli, who is the councilor of the MMC for Finance responsibility for the body, said that the teams were ready to reflect the attack and thus was not going to pay the demanded fee for the hacker. 

She also said that they are more than sure that the city will be soon able to recover from affection. The Johannesburg city councils have already implemented some of the critical customer-facing systems into the action and are hoping to get a positive outcome soon. Most of the fields, including online customer centers, customer services, civic affairs and some more are affected. The systems are yet down, though they are promised to be fixed very soon. 

The cyberattack has been considered to be the attack on the whole city and the residents of the city, rather than the particular attack on the City system. The statement has been made by Ngobeni. It was also said that once the hacker had turned down the system he emailed the employees and demanded the Bitcoin payment. 

Shortly after the Johannesburg attack, the Europol released the document stating the cryptocurrency-ransomware remains one of the most popular and hard tracking cyberattacks, which authorities are facing right now. 

Disclaimer: information contained herein is provided without considering your personal circumstances, therefore should not be construed as financial advice, investment recommendation or an offer of, or solicitation for, any transactions in cryptocurrencies.