by STEPHEN DAVIES
IT’S true that cybercrime is a worldwide problem, but recent research has shown that South Africa has the third most cybercrime victims of any country.
It’s certainly true that cybercrime is a worldwide problem, but recent research has shown that South African consumers are bearing the brunt disproportionately, with the country reportedly having the third highest number of cybercrime victims anywhere in the world. It also suffers more attacks than any other African country.
South African consumers are losing about R2.2 billion a year to cyber attacks. Such is the extent of the problem that organisations like the short-term loan provider Wonga are taking steps to try and protect their customers, with the lender producing its own guide to help its customers identify which messages are genuine and which are fakes.
The true extent of the problem
Although the research makes damning enough reading as it is, the worry is that the real level of cybercrime could be far worse as it’s not compulsory to report cybercrime in South Africa.
Of the attacks that were reported, it was found that one in every 214 emails sent in the country was actually a spear phishing attack, which is the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from a known or trusted sender.
The report also found that one-in-three businesses had been the victim of a cybercrime, with a lack of awareness of the threats the predominant reason for their success.
What can be done?
Until very recently, South African had no legislation in place to address cybercrime. However, all that has now changed with the introduction of the Cybercrime and Cyber Security Bill, which has brought South Africa in line with international laws dealing with cybercrime.
The Bill creates a number of structures to deal with threats and definitions of offences and details of the punishments that can be imposed on cybercriminals.
However, the onus is still very much on individuals and businesses to take the necessary steps to protect themselves. Criminals will always look for the easiest way in, which is why it is so essential to be aware of the potential risks and the various forms they can take.
After an initial scan of an individual’s and business’s defences, the next step is for the criminals to attack the human element, which can give them authenticated and undetected access to systems.
The only way to protect against this ever-present threat is to make end users aware of the risks that exist online and educate them about the fundamental rules that make financial and social media platforms safer. That includes things like:
● Using long passwords that contain a mixture of lower and upper case letters, numbers and symbols;
● Keeping antivirus software up to date;
● Regularly updating operating systems, software and internet browsers;
● Being able to spot the warning signs of a phishing scam;
● Never sending sensitive information via email or SMS;
● Never clicking on links or attachments unless you’re 100 percent sure where they have come from.
While they may be simple, these six steps can help individuals and businesses to protect themselves from cybercrime to a large degree and bring the number of victims falling foul of the scammers right down.
NB: Have you been the victim of a cyber attack? Did you report it, and if so what happened? Please share your experiences with our readers in the comments below. Submit you comment about this article on: firstname.lastname@example.org