Together with our growing dependence on technology, cyber crime is on the rise; also in South Africa, which has now become cyber criminals’ latest target. This is why the time has come for use to let go of that “it will never happen to me” attitude and shake off our laxity when it comes to the safe-guarding of our appliances.
WannaCry, the malicious software that recently affected hundreds of thousands of computers all over the world, proved that no-one is immune against cyber threats. It disrupted car factories, the worldwide sender FedEx Corp and Britain’s national health service while silently and rapidly spreading between computers, and making information thereon useless by encrypting the data.
While South Africa got off fairly lightly, we are cautioned to be vigilant. A spokesperson of the South African Bank Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) says South Africa boasts the third largest number of cyber crime victims in the world. We lose approximately R2.2 milliard per year to cyber attacks.
The threat to our cyber landscape is huge and diverse. Apart from businesses being susceptible to the increasing incidence of cyber attacks, individuals are regular victims of crimes such as:
- Identity theft: Where criminals obtain information about you and mislead a bank or client representative by pretending to be you.
- Phishing: Where criminals try to mislead unsuspecting individuals to click on a malicious URL or email attachment so that the victim’s details can be stolen and used to gain unauthorised access to his or her financial accounts.
- Malicious software (malware): Where a cyber criminal infects your computer with harmful software and in this way gains access to the files thereon and encrypts them. Often the only way to get these files back is to pay a ransom to the hacker in a crypto monetary unit such as Bitcoin.
According to a report by the cyber security company Norton, in 2017 an alarming 978 million users worldwide were affected by cyber crime, while altogether $72 milliard was stolen, says the head of Dialdirect Insurance, Maanda Tshifularo.
“The losses were much more than mere financial – every victim of cyber crime on average spent about two workdays on the aftermath of the incident. Most of these crimes weren’t even very sophisticated – such as false emails that mislead individuals to reveal personal information.”
Which is why you have to take care to stay abreast of the latest cyber hoax, says Basie von Solms, director of the University of Johannesburg’s cyber security centre “The more you know, the bigger the chance that you will recognise a hoax and not fall for the trickery.”
Protect yourself against cyber crime as follows:
- Don’t use your social media profiles to log into other accounts.
- Use strong passwords, with a variety of capital letters and small letters, symbols and figures. Don’t write it down where others can see it and see to it that you change your passwords regularly.
- Use only trustworthy online sales websites. Make sure of the website’s URL address. If it begins with “https” instead of “http” it means the website is safe. Ask your friends if they have ever heard of the website or used it.
- Be extra careful when you use Wi-Fi hotspots. Some cyber criminals falsify popular hotspots.
- Don’t just click on unknown links.
- Use good quality security programmes and a firewall on your computer and update them regularly.
- Protect yourself against identity theft by not revealing too much about yourself on social media networks.
- Back up the data on your computer regularly.
- Don’t react to unknown emails that allege that you have won a prize or inherited money.
- Keep an eye on your monthly statements to identify unusual/unauthorised transactions and movements.
To nip cyber crime in the bud it is important to report cyber crime on websites such as: onTrack.org.za; Just.ac.za; Investigators.co.za; Crimeline.co.za; Scambuster.co.za; and Easycomeeasygo.co.za