More than ever before, cybercrime is affecting South Africa, with cyber attacks to critical digital infrastructure both at home and at work. South Africa is a playground for cyber criminals trying to steal our personal data and hack into our computer systems.
Almost 60% of the South African population are now online with an increasing number of devices, networks and servers bringing about new opportunities for cybercriminals. The dark web in South Africa is growing and infected computers are being used to conduct nefarious affairs, such as gaining unauthorised access to data or spreading malware. In recents months, there has been a spike in cyber attacks in South Africa.
Never before has our personal cybersecurity been so important and yet South Africans are generally quite naive when it comes to managing their digital safety. With South Africa’s growing digital citizenship, cyber security should be a top priority.
Our vision is to connect homes and small businesses across South Africa to high-speed fibre internet, but with this comes a social responsibility to spread information about the risks associated with cyber attacks and what we can do to win the battle against cybercrime.
Cybercrime stats in South Africa
The latest cybercrime statistics reveal that South Africa is ranked sixth among the world’s most affected countries. With an estimated 52 victims per 1 million internet users, the level of cybercrime in South Africa is extremely high. In 2021, there were an average of 97 victims per hour, while back in 2001 only 6 South Africans per hour fell victim to cybercrime.
Obviously, South Africa is now much more digitised than it was 20 years ago, but what these figures also reveal is that South Africa now competes with highly developed nations as a hotbed for cyber attacks. Other English-speaking countries, such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia, are more affected by cybercrime, but the rate of criminal activity in South Africa suggests that our digital infrastructure is now established enough to attract cyber crime. With improved digital access comes an increase in cybercrime activity.
Cyber attacks in South Africa
The most common type of cybercrime is phishing, where a fraudster sends an email trying to trick someone into giving away their personal information or sending money. Half of the victims of cybercrime are victims of a phishing attack and this type of crime mostly affects individuals and small businesses.
Compared to other types of attacks on big companies, phishing doesn’t amount as much money per victim. However, phishing extorts around R2250 per victim and for many South Africans, this is a considerable sum especially when we consider that most victims fall in the over-60 age bracket.
Although attacks on large companies happen less frequently, when they do occur they can have devastating effects. In recent years, TransUnion South Africa was involved in a massive cyber attack, a data breach where 54 million records of personal data were stolen. Personally identifiable information (PII), including ID numbers, employment information, email addresses and even passport numbers, were stolen by hackers.
Transunion SA admitted to receiving an extortion demand, but said it will not be paid because they do not support this type of criminal behaviour as it will only incentivise more of this type of attack. This attack affected millions of South Africans and the repercussions of having our personal data stolen will be felt for years to come.
Understanding the causes of cyber attacks
The rate of cybercrime changes in line with global events. With the Covid-19 pandemic, cybercrime grew by 69%. More people started working from home, using their personal devices for work and not investing in good antivirus software. South African computers that are infected with malware are often used to infiltrate other networks.
The owner of the device is often unaware and only notices that their internet speeds have dramatically dropped. An infected computer uses up a lot of bandwidth to perform these illegal background actions.
South Africa has a lot of inexperienced internet users that are too trusting in cyberspace. When an elderly person receives an email from someone they know asking for help, they don’t necessarily think to question whether it is a genuine request. If a mother gets a Facebook message from her son’s account saying he needs some money, she may well fall for this trap, not knowing that his account had been hacked.
As internet use increases in South Africa, WonderNet understands the importance of taking part in campaigns to raise awareness about such cybersecurity issues, cyber attacks, and what to do about them.
How do I know if my computer has been attacked?
There are some tell-tale signs to look out for that will indicate whether your computer has been attacked. Strange windows that pop up or tabs on your web browser that open up on their own are often signs that your computer is infected with malware. You might even get a pop-up saying that you need to pay ransom in order to retain access to your files or computer software.
When passwords suddenly stop working, it could be that someone has gone into your account and changed them. Look out for transactions on your credit card that you don’t recognise, even small ones. Over time, these transactions can add up and could well be a sign that someone has gained access to your financial details.
If friends tell you they’ve received spam emails or messages from your accounts, immediately go and change your passwords. And while you are at it, choose a really strong password that doesn’t contain any recognisable words. Instead, create a password that looks more like a code with a combination of numbers, letters and special characters.
South Africans face a spike in cyber attacks
Improved digitisation in South Africa is a double-edged sword. While individuals and businesses benefit from improved access to the online world, they are also more vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Cyber security needn’t be difficult and WonderNet has lots of suggestions on the best ways to improve your cyber security. It is up to each individual and business owner to take control of their internet safety, much like we do with our personal safety. It is our social responsibility to help others learn about cybersecurity. Working together we can reduce the effects of cybercrime in South Africa.