SA easy target for cyber criminals

An analyst looks at code in the malware lab of a cyber security defense lab. Picture: REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

An analyst looks at code in the malware lab of a cyber security defense lab. Picture: REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Published Oct 15, 2012


Cape Town - Nigerian “princes” promise to share their vast inheritance, companies offer lottery winnings and fraudsters posing as local banks are looking to raid accounts. Cyber crime is on the rise, having claimed 556 million victims this year – and SA is quickly emerging as a soft target for online fraudsters.

A computer expert who works with the FBI and has South African links said: “It’s a war, and what astonishes me is how blasé South Africans are about this threat.”

But Arthur Goldstuck, a local IT analyst who manages the website WorldWideWorx, said most internet users in SA were not “blasé” but oblivious.

“We are a developing country. As a result we are seeing a lot of new and inexperienced internet users,” he said.

According to Goldstuck, at the end of this year there will be about 11 million internet users in SA but only 4 million of those will be considered experienced. “We are easy targets for cyber criminals,” he said.

The most common form of cyber crime is known as “phishing”. Fraudsters will generally pose as a local bank, sending an e-mail requesting users to input their bank details on to a third-party website.

The fraudster will ultimately use the information to bleed the bank account dry.

“It’s easy to spot – no South African bank will ever ask you to click on a link to put in your account details,” said Goldstuck.

SA banks had their ear to the wire and were ahead of most countries in terms of their security measures, he said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future we are consulting other countries on how to deal with cyber crime,” he added.

Other forms of online fraud include e-mail scams. Cyber criminals will pose as businessmen looking to hand over a large inheritance in exchange for a small fee or claim that users have won the lottery.

“Again, and it’s so obvious that I feel I shouldn’t have to say it,” said Goldstuck. “If it seems too good to be true then it is.”

But cyber crime extends beyond the inbox. Liza van Wyk, chief executive of Astrotech Training, a management training company, said one of the most damaging forms of online fraud is the invisible enemy.

Viruses picked up from browsing the internet and downloading files can compromise users’ privacy and hand over important information to cyber criminals based anywhere in the world.

Trojans and “keyloggers” sit in the background silently collecting account details and bank numbers.

“While people can be on the lookout for e-mail scams, viruses only become obvious when they start causing problems and then it’s too late.

She recommended users made use of a security suite and kept it up-to-date to ensure hackers could not invade their systems.

Van Wyk also highlighted the importance of using multiple passwords in case hackers stumbles upon one of them.

In June, social networking website LinkedIn was breached by hackers who gained access to over 16 million passwords. Van Wyk warned that if you used the same password for multiple services, leaks such as this could result in more than just one account being compromised. - Cape Argus

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