In the wake of disturbing levels of cyberattacks against the new direct payment system, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme will be investigating attempts to steal student data.
IN THE wake of disturbing levels of cyberattacks against the new direct payment system, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will be investigating attempts to steal student data.
The chairperson of the NSFAS board, Ernest Khoza, speaking at a briefing in Hatfield, Tshwane, on Monday, said the rationale behind the stringent authentication process they had implemented recently was to avoid situations in which undeserving students were erroneously paid allowances.
Khoza said what was even more disturbing were the levels to which some individuals would go in order to discredit the system, especially through cyberattacks.
He said the information they had, confirmed ongoing actions to discredit the system, which included targeted cyberattacks on the websites where beneficiaries’ accounts were hosted.
“There is no doubt in my mind that these attacks were the intention to steal student data, intercept allowances, and render the new system unsafe. NSFAS has alerted the relevant authorities and will be investigating such cases with them.”
According to Khoza, a total of 355,270 students – roughly 86% – had been paid their allowances after they successfully managed to authenticate themselves on the system.
Calls were made to the remaining 14% of students who still needed to register and authenticate themselves in order for their allowances to be released.
“If we are not firm on authenticating students, we run the risk of paying ghost students.”
He added: “There have been observations by the public, Parliament, and press just two months ago that about R5.2 billion was erroneously paid to students who were not deserving, and it is against that background that it’s only fair for NSFAS to ensure that our authentication process is firm, effective and we do not find ourselves funding ghost students.”
NSFAS has been in the spotlight in recent weeks after various student leaders and student organisations have criticised the new direct payment system implemented by the scheme starting in June.
Despite the backlash regarding challenges with the system, Khoza said a total of 608,601 beneficiaries at public universities had been paid, while a total of 383,671 were paid to TVET college beneficiaries for August alone.
“As with the introduction of any new system, there have now been teething issues and cases of students who have not been able to access their allowances with the new solution.
“In such cases, this will affect the 14% who are not onboarded, but we stand committed to assisting in various ways, including going to institutions physically and assisting students on how best to onboard.”