As more South Africans use the Internet, especially smartphones for banking and buying, the threat landscape in the country grows. In 2019 the spike in cyber attacks was pronounced, with all sectors being hit by cyber criminals.
According to a research report by iDefense, an Accenture security intelligence company, South Africa had the third most cyber crime victims in the world for the year 2019. This translates to a loss of R2.2 billion in cyber attacks.
This report analyses the trends and incidents that occurred, and gives an insight into the reasons why South Africa is such an attractive target.
Why is South Africa such an attractive target?
- There’s a growing number of first-time Internet users in South Africa, who are naturally less tech-savvy and therefore more vulnerable to cyber threats. As inexperienced users increase, so do the opportunities for cyber criminals.
- South Africa is hampered by socio-economic problems, high unemployment and a shortage of skilled labour. Businesses often can’t afford to invest in cyber security and those who can often can’t find trained cyber security personnel to employ. With fewer barriers to entry, cyber attacks are easier to fulfil.
- Because South Africa’s cyber crime legislation and law enforcement training is in its infancy, it provides a suitable hideout for illegal operations. Cyber criminals face a lower chance of being caught or prosecuted.
- South Africans using personal devices to access apps and services on business networks without the knowledge of the IT department creates direct pathways for cyber criminals to enter. This “shadow IT” is a key player in the deployment of malware onto a system.
- South Africa has been “noticed” by cyber criminals in recent years. Research by iDefense analysts shows that South Africa only started featuring on the dark web around 2016, and is now firmly “on the map”.
iDefense makes special note that:
- Mobile banking application fraud showed a 100% increase in 2019. This follows the steep curve in businesses using mobile banking in South Africa and a gradual curve in cyber crime awareness.
- Due to the relatively low level of cyber threat awareness, basic scams such as phishing are often successful in South Africa.
- Ransomware is accessible to unskilled cyber criminals, who can purchase it relatively cheaply and simply deploy it.
What can businesses do to defend themselves?
The report also gives suggestions on actions businesses can take to defend themselves going forward. These include:
- Using digital technologies to measure security and threat that will help you avoid them.
- Protecting against internal threats by continually educating business teams in cyber security. Phishing is still a major player in security incidents.
- Becoming compliant with data privacy laws, as this means you’ll be employing best practices and meeting security standards.
- Preparing for when, not if, an attack occurs through automated backup, incident response procedures, anti-malware measures, and access to a cloud hosted environment.