Cybercrime on the rise since start of lockdown

South Africa is ranked 31st out of 75 countries in terms of cybersecurity exposure. This is according to the latest research from global research company Comparitech.

“Cybercrime is a growing issue in South Africa. We surveyed +/-1 000 businesses in South Africa, the majority being small to medium enterprises, but some larger corporate organizations provided their input as well,” said Kirsten Cronin, an underwriter at SHA Risk Specialists.

In their survey, they found that 37% of businesses reported suffering a security breach in the last year, with one-fifth reporting that this was due to internal vulnerabilities such as staff clicking on malicious links.

“This is up from 30% last year to 37% this year. I think the issue of unawareness is the biggest problem we are facing in South Africa as many still believe that it will not happen to them. We need to get the message out there that these types of events are on the rise,” said Cronin.

They found that 28% of the businesses surveyed may have experienced security problems due to the work from home environment forced by the lockdown, and 17% of businesses lost more than R250 000 per cyber incident. About 10% of businesses reported that during a cyber incident they were offline for more than 72 hours.

She advises people to be careful when opening up emails from unknown senders, don’t just click on links in emails or on websites, check that you have been directed to the legitimate website.

Chief executive of IRS Forensic Investigations Chad Thomas said it was difficult for the authorities to keep up with the ever-changing trends occurring within this space.


“Criminals are adept at the methods that they use to defraud unsuspecting victims. Financial crime predators use slick websites to draw in victims and advertise extensively on social media. What is important to remember is that cybercrime is not the crime but rather the technique used for an underlying crime, which is normally fraud or theft,” said Thomas.

He added that various studies have been conducted in the rise of cybercrime as a way to commit financial crimes.

“The Financial Crime News Global Threat Assessment of 2019 quoted the 2018 United Nations Office for Drug and Crime reports , which estimated that theft and fraud worldwide as a result of the cybercrime totalled a massive $1.5 trillion. The total value of all financial crime loss during the same 2018 period was $5.8 trillion, so this is indicative of the huge problem of cybercrime and how it is being used more and more by syndicates to commit financial crime,” said Thomas.

Chief executive for the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric), Nischal Mewalall, said the advent of digital platforms has created opportunities for criminals to defraud people.

“Prevalent financial scams continue to be those that involve social engineering tactics to gain access to victims’ money. Social engineering exploits human psychology and is a form of manipulation used by criminals to gain personal or confidential information from an unsuspecting victim,” said Mewalall.

Sabric encourages people to also take note of the following:

* Never click on links in unsolicited emails or SMSes.

* If you receive a One Time Pin (OTP) on your phone without having transacted yourself, it is likely a fraudster who has used your personal information. Do not provide the OTP telephonically to anybody. Contact your bank immediately to alert them to the possibility that your information may have been compromised.

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* If you lose mobile connectivity under circumstances where you are usually connected, check whether you may have been the victim of a SIM swop scam.

-Weekend Argus

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