Research shows a 17% spike in cyber threats in SA during week leading up to Black Friday; tips to stay safe

File image.

File image.

Published Dec 1, 2022


Johannesburg –There was a 17% spike in cyberthreats in South Africa during the week leading up to Black Friday, a new study has found.

The research, conducted by privacy protection toolset Surfshark Antivirus, found that the nation saw a threat rate of 13. That is 22% lower than the global average.

In addition, the study revealed that every 50th scan finds at least one threat and that South Africa had a threat rate of 13 threats per 100 scan cycle.

“The holiday shopping season starting with Black Friday is not only beneficial for the retailers but cybercriminals too,” Nedas Kazlauskas, anti-virus product owner at Surfshark said.

“People searching for gifts and deals online during the period of huge discounts are more likely to click on suspicious links, download malicious files, and infect their devices."

Kazlauskas explained that during the month leading up to Black Friday, the most common threats in South Africa had been riskware and viruses.

Meanwhile, the five countries that suffered the highest threat rate spikes during this time (week-over-week) were Romania (4 349%), Australia (275%), Lithuania (95%), Belgium (440%), and Germany (75%).

Europe has also been the most affected region in the month leading up to Black Friday.

But aggregated monthly data from Surfshark Antivirus showed that South Africa was the first country by threat rate in Africa.

“On average, three threats are found per 100 scans in Africa. This is 82% (fewer) than the global average,” Kazlauskas said.

He added that globally, Europe was the most affected cyberthreat region, with 28% more than the global average.

The study examined Surfshark Antivirus encrypted data aggregated and anonymised by their automated mechanisms.

“The analysis has been ongoing since October 17, 2022 and aggregated data were analysed according to three major categories: 1) Threat rate (threats per 100 scans) by country: threat count divided by completed scans multiplied by 100.

“ 2) Threat rate by its type; 3) Threat tiers: scan count that found 1, 2 to 10, 11 to 50, and more than 50 threats.

Countries were ranked by threat rate, excluding those with too few scans completed.

Most common cyberthreats since mid-October:

The Surfshark Antivirus research also found that the most common threat types identified and flagged during Surfsharks’ antivirus scans were riskware (47.3% of all threats), heuristic (12.4%) and adware (9.2%).

“Since October 17, the latest weekly global scans show that, on average, 10 riskware threats were found per 100 scans,” Kazlauskas said.

He explained that some malware (viruses, trojans, worms, etc) tend to multiply once they’ve infiltrated and infected a device and could cause damage to files, personal data, and operating software.

“The most likely malware type to be found in bundles is virus. 24% of scans that detect viruses will detect more than 50 of them.”

Kazlauskas said that two of the most common cyberthreat categories were malware and riskware.

“Riskware is a program made without malicious intent, but has security vulnerabilities that give it the potential to become malware,” he said.

“Malware is any software, product, or program created or installed onto a computer to cause harm.”

Kazlauskas said that hackers used malware to corrupt or delete files, steal money and personal data, copy passwords, or take control of specific programs.

“The most common ways for malware to be installed are phishing emails, corrupt attachments, suspicious downloads, unfamiliar links, and malicious websites. Malware comes in various types, such as viruses, trojans, worms, spyware, adware, bots, and more.”

Tips to protect yourself from threats online

Avoid unfamiliar sites: Steer clear of unknown or un-vetted sites that offer discounts too good to be true.

Look for the lock icon: Make sure the website has a secure HTTPS connection. The lock icon in the address bar can identify them as legitimate sites.

Update your software: Ensure the programs and apps are up to date to avoid potential security breaches.

Steer clear of suspicious links: Scammers will send malicious links via email, mobile or social. Please do not click on them. Instead, verify deals on a retailer's official website.

Watch for typos: inconsistent grammar, multiple typos, and strange phrases can indicate potential scams.

Use Antivirus: it offers real-time protection from same-day threats and advanced detection against malware and cyberattacks.