Home South African Sars using outdated eFiling software despite warnings from provider

Sars using outdated eFiling software despite warnings from provider

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For an agency in charge of collecting the country’s tax, the levels of technology implementation at Sars are unacceptable – cybersecurity expert

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THE SOUTH African Revenue Service (Sars) is still using outdated software on its eFiling system despite numerous warnings from software provider Adobe.

This was confirmed on Tuesday, after Sars put out a public apology on its Facebook page.

“Sars is aware of certain forms not loading correctly due to Adobe Flash. We are currently working on resolving the matter and will advise once the problem has been resolved. We sincerely apologise for the current inconvenience,” Sars said in a statement.

Despite collecting R1,355.8 billion for the 2019 fiscal year, Sars failed to heed Adobe’s warning, who notified the public twice about the discontinuation of Adobe Flash player due to its lack of security and changes in the digital sphere.

“Adobe is planning to end-of-life Flash. Specifically, we will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player at the end of 2020,” Adobe said in a statement in June 2017.

Adobe said that the changes were due to several developments that occurred on the internet interface itself, such as the changes made to HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly.

In December last year, Adobe reiterated the Flash Player’s end-of-life announcement.

“Since Adobe will no longer be supporting Flash Player after 31 December 2020 and Adobe will block Flash content from running in Flash Player beginning 12 January 2021, Adobe strongly recommends all users immediately uninstall Flash Player to help protect their systems,” Adobe said in a statement on December 2, 2020.

The African News Agency (ANA) contacted Sars for comment on Wednesday but there was no response.

For an agency in charge of collecting the country’s tax, the levels of technology implementation at Sars are unacceptable, according to cybersecurity expert Hennie Ferreira.

“In the age of Covid-19, social distancing and remote working, tax practitioners, business owners and members of the public are unable to visit Sars offices and rely heavily on virtual systems to get things done. It seems the whole system has now ground to a halt,” Ferreira said.

“It is unacceptable that we use outdated and insecure technology to run our country’s tax system.”

Ferreira, who is also the founder of Osidon, an online-based accounting services platform, has urged users not to download Flash Player from any foreign or third-party websites, as this may be malware.

“South Africans need to realise the importance of cybersecurity and make sure they educate themselves and protect themselves and their businesses,” Ferreira added.

Ferreira said that the problem at Sars could lead to companies becoming non-complaint with regards to taxation.

Furthermore, Ferreira said that Sars spoke to “the South African Institute of Tax Professionals (SAIT) on Tuesday morning, suggesting they use Microsoft Edge as an alternative.

“Any e-filers experiencing any issues when attempting to access any of the forms on eFiling should try following recommendations provided below if you haven’t already. Use the Microsoft Edge browser,” said Sars in a statement on Tuesday.

Ferreira, however, opposed this, saying it was complete nonsense because Microsoft clearly indicated that it too, will be stopping Adobe Flash Player support.

“We have tested it on Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, Edge and IE and none of them is working. The solution Sars posted does not work on an updated computer, maybe an outdated one may have a better shot.

“Adobe blocked all Flash players for security purposes; Sars encourages people to do the opposite,“ Ferreira concluded.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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