Concern as South Africa features in top 10 list of countries hardest hit by cybercrime



Published Feb 26, 2022


Johannesburg - South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world.

It also has one of the highest unemployment rates, and the country is notorious for its high levels of gender-based violence.

Now it has another huge problem to contend with. This week, it was revealed that South Africa also sits in the top 10 countries to have the most cybercrime in the world.

This was revealed by world-renowned cybersecurity company Surfshark, that recently compiled research on the countries that have been hardest hit by cybercrime over the last few years.

While South Africa sits sixth in the countries found to have the most cybercrime, research by the award-winning cybercrime company has shown that South Africa has shown the sharpest rise in cybercrime recently compared to any country in the world.

Among the countries hardest hit by cybercrime are the UK, which ranks first, followed by the US, Canada, and Belgium.

France, Germany, Mexico, and India also feature on the list. However, South Africa is the only African country to feature.

According to the research by SurfShark, South Africa has the highest year-over-year (YoY) density increase of 277%.

SA features in top 10 list of countries hit hardest by cybercrime. Supplied image.

The country was followed by the UK, which showed a 130% rise in cybercrime density. However, the overall numbers of South Africa are significantly lower than the UK’s, which topped the overall cybercrime density list.

In perspective, South Africa has 51 victims per million internet users, almost 67 times fewer than the list-leading UK (3 409 per million).

Agneska Sablovskaja, research team lead of Surfshark, said South Africa had shown a shocking rise in cybercrime.

“Using our breach detection mechanism, we found that in 2019 the number of breached users in South Africa has increased by a striking 490% compared to 2018,” Sablovskaja told the Saturday Star this week.

“This increase might have led to cybercrime growth in 2020 as breached data is often used to commit further crimes such as phishing, government impersonation scams, or identity theft.”

Sablovskaja said the Covid-19 pandemic had had a big influence in the increase in cybercrime in South Africa and the rest of the world.

“During the pandemic, all of our daily lives were transferred online like banking, medical consultations, work, even school. This made cybercriminals more active in employing phishing and other cybercrime techniques that were closely related to the Covid topic.”

While South Africa has shown the sharpest rise in cybercrime, Sablovskaja said the numbers were relatively low compared to other countries which featured in the top 10.

“South Africa ranks on a lower end compared to the list-leading countries that count their victims in thousands. The first-ranking UK had 3 409 victims per one million internet users, almost 67 times more than South Africa, while the US (1 724 victims per one million), which ranks second, had nearly 34 times more victims.

“In the last five years, crime density slowly rose from 11.8 cybercrime victims per one million internet users in 2016 to 14.1 victims per one million in 2019 and 50.8/1m users in 2020. The US, Canada, and the UK were constantly sharing first places in the last five years.”

The latest statistics were compiled using internet crime report data that was aggregated and analysed according to overall financial losses, losses by victim, victim count, age groups, and the number of cybercrime victims per million internet users, said Sablovskaja.

“For this study, we specifically selected internet crimes that affected individual people. Online crimes that affect only businesses, such as business email, were not included in the statistics.

“Internet crimes such as ’data breach’ were not included either, as it is often a result of criminal hacking or human error.

“Data breach density data was taken from the Surfshark Alert (a data breach detection tool) database, which comprises all publicly available breached data sets to inform our users of potential threats.”

According to Surfshark’s study, phishing continued to be the most common cybercrime for the second year in a row.

In 2020 there were a total of 241 343 phishing victims. However, on average, phishing victims lost the least amount of money ($225 or R3 433 a victim), while people who fell victim to investment fraud lost the most ($38 287 a victim on average).

At the same time, confidence and romance fraud had the highest financial impact in total on victims.

People lost more than $600 million this way in 2020. That year the least impactful online crime was the Denial of Service (DoS) attacks – only around 2 000 victims reported this crime with an average loss of $254.

Surfshark CEO Vytautas Kaziukonis said: “As more of our lives become digital, the chances of falling victim to online crimes grow every year.

“Since 2001, the online crime victim count increased by 15 times, and financial losses grew more than 200 times, from $2 000 to $480 000 per hour. Inevitably, the privacy and cybersecurity landscape will change rapidly over the next several years.

“Now is a good time to focus on personal cybersecurity hygiene to stay safer online.”