15 October 2021

ICT student in front line defending hospitals against cyber criminals 

COVID-19 has left many institutions, including hospitals, vulnerable to cybercrime and attacks. Thabo Mahlangu, a master’s student at the Faculty of Information and Communication Technology’s (ICT) department of Computer Systems Engineering, saw a unique opportunity to become part of an elite team tasked with defending the country against homegrown and external cybersecurity threats and attacks.

ICT student, Thabo Mahlangu

The 31-year old holds several positions, including senior Artificial Intelligence (AI) researcher at South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), junior part time lecturer at TUT and as a code mentor at an online school.

Mahlangu’s expertise is currently in high demand as cybercriminals have taken advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to target defenseless hospitals, infiltrating vulnerable networks to lock legitimate users out of the system, in what is known as ransom or “ransomware” – attacks. The felons then demand excessive amounts of money before they release access back to the rightful owners. Not a single one of the attempted attacks on hospitals in South Africa have been successful, all thanks to Thabo and the CSIR team he works with.

“Being a senior Artificial Intelligence and cybersecurity researcher at the CSIR, I get to deal with investigations that the police force would not be able to conduct, since it is extremely difficult to get tangible evidence of cybercrime cases. One is forced to constantly learn new things, because cyber criminals are always trying new ways to hack and attack the digital space,” he said.

Mahlangu said scientists and researchers are a vital part of the fight against COVID-19 because; “young minds are limitless in their capacity for imagination and innovation. This is where innovative ideas come from, and it is why they are needed on the cyber battleground.”

Mahlangu added that he constantly encourages learners to further their studies in ICT-related fields; “The future of ICT is brighter, it is the fastest growing field, more jobs are created every year and more-over, ICT drives the emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) now. Many people fear that artificial intelligence will take away their jobs, but I see artificial intelligence giving birth to data science, machine learning engineering and deep learning engineer fields, which we did not have 10 years ago. This has opened up many more jobs for people to take advantage of.”

For more information on the Tshwane University of Technology, please contact Phaphama Tshisikhawe, Corporate Affairs and Marketing.
Tel: +27 12 382 4711  Email: tshisikhawerpt@tut.ac.za