Nomkhosi Miya
2 minute read
8 Nov 2016
5:31 am

Residents urged to be on the lookout for cyber criminals

Nomkhosi Miya

The study further reveals that South Africa is the third most hard-hit country when it comes to cyber-crime.

Germany's cyber crime watchdog said it learnt last month of the mass theft of 16 million digital identities through a criminal probe but needed weeks before alerting the public

Information and communication technology has become a vital part of our daily lives. This includes, among others, communication, entertainment, transportation system, online shopping, business operations and even searching for a soulmate.

However, the undocumented negative impact that comes with the technological advancement is overwhelming. In as much as one would like to be part of a digital society, personal information is most likely to be shared on the internet, sometimes without consent.

A study done by Symantec, an internet safety advocacy group, indicates a disturbing picture of over one million South Africans who had fallen victim to cybercrime.

The study further reveals that South Africa is the third most hard-hit country when it comes to cyber-crime, with 73% of respondents indicating they had experienced cybercrime in their lifetime, 55% of whom had experienced it in the past year alone.

While some are aware of the importance of protecting personal information on their devices, there is still a general lack of awareness to safeguard such information and this leads many running the risk of someone “phishing”.

Phishing is when somebody tries to deceive you to obtain your personal information. Usually it is done by sending e-mails that appear to come from a bank or any other reputable business organisation.

These e-mails may include a link that takes you to a fake website that may look legitimate and, out of desperation, many fall for it and find themselves victims.

South African Banking Risk Identification advises bank users to be aware of unsolicited information that may require them to respond through e-mail or SMS. Bank users are advised to make use of call centres for enquiries.

Social media platforms, on the other hand, have not spared us from abuse. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become a breeding ground for stalkers and sexual predators.

Individuals using these online platforms share private information without thinking of the consequences. While some people may be innocently looking for love, jobs or business opportunities online, this may lead them to the criminals simply because they voluntarily offered their information.

The sad reality is that the cost of cybercrime will continue to increase as more business functions move to online and as more people connect to the internet. Another trending issue is the rise of cyber attacks on bank websites and cash machines.

The introduction of debit machines and internet banking systems have made our lives more convenient.

However, cyber criminals have become more advanced to a sophisticated scheme known as an “Unlimited Operations” fraud. Unlimited Operations fraud is when criminals install malicious software on a bank’s computer through phishing e-mails, and then hack into control panels to raise limits on how much a cash machine can dispense.

In these instances, criminals withdraw large amounts of money from a number of cash machines within four hours to two days with stolen bank cards, often on weekends because that is when there is more money in the machines.