Cybersecurity experts have said that while SA banks are not immune to hacking attacks because of the proactive measures, customers need to remain vigilant. Picture: Ritchie B Tongo /EPA
Cape Town - Cybersecurity experts have said that while South African banks are not immune to hacking and malware attacks because of the proactive measures they continue to institute, customers need to remain vigilant at all times.

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) reported this week about potential malware attacks on major banks in the sub-Saharan Africa region.

The centre said: “We are aware of the media statement issued by Kaspersky on January 13 about potential malware attacks on major banks in the sub-Saharan Africa region, most likely by the Russian ‘Silence’ hacking group which has been responsible for the theft of millions of dollars globally.”

The general manager at Cyber Security Networks Unlimited Africa, Stefan van de Giessen, said: “South African banks are constantly driving innovation to ensure that engagement with the bank is simplified for the man on the street. By adopting such a dynamic approach, the potential vectors of attack increase significantly for all the banks. To combat this, local banks therefore have a very proactive view on cyber security.”

Security specialist at global ICT provider T-Systems Lukas van der Merwe said: “I’m concerned about the cyber security of many organisations in South Africa, but not the banks. They have high levels of security maturity. Of course no system is infallible and no IT system is impenetrable and with enough resources backing them, determined hackers will always find ways around a system.

“However I am more concerned about customers who get caught up in phishing attacks etc. They should be aware that the Sabric website has a wealth of information to help them stay safe.”

The digitisation of our personal and work lives is making society increasingly reliant on technology, and more vulnerable to the risk of a debilitating cyber attack. With the accelerating pace of technological change, attacks are continuously intensifying in frequency and severity. Data breaches, the theft of business critical information and ransom demands are all threatening the reputation and stability of businesses. 

The World Economic Forum recently listed cybersecurity as the fifth-highest global risk for doing business, and IT is considered the top risk in Europe, North America and East Asia. South Africa is becoming a major target for cyber attacks. According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC), the country has the third-highest number of cybercrime victims worldwide - losing around R2.2 billion a year to cyberattacks.

Security Specialist Heino Gevers, who works at Mimecast, said, “Businesses should protect themselves against a potentially devastating cyber attack, by implementing a robust cyber resilience strategy.”

“Nine of out 10 data breaches start with email, so it’s important to not only prevent email-borne cyber attacks but to be able to recover from them as well. This can be achieved by having the right advanced security services in place before an attack happens, continuity during an attack and the ability to recover data after an attack. Additionally, organisations should improve their defences by reducing human error with an effective user awareness training programme,” said Gevers.

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