Although there are no official statistics available on cyber crime levels in South Africa, it is a growing concern and a definite threat for every business – and every individual – with an Internet presence.
“Cyber criminals know no boundaries and the success of their ‘business’ is founded and supported by our growing dependence on the Internet," says Dries Morris director at Securicom.
"With the amount of money being made even from isolated attacks, it is no surprise that organised crime syndicates are now involved in launching highly sophisticated attacks that exploit an organisation’s need to have online availability to do business.
“The motive behind cyber attacks is revenue driven and recent events show that with the involvement of organised crime, the focus has shifted from larger corporations to the SME market and the man on the street because they are perceived as soft targets.
“By stealing personal and confidential information, such as banking details, passwords and the like, cyber criminals are able to hack into company and individual accounts and take what they want."
But how do they do it? According to Morris, cyber bandits infect the end-user’s computer with a piece of malware, typically a Trojan, which will download and install system monitors, better known as keyloggers, that collect and transmit the personal information directly to them.
Such “infections” occur via multiple methods, including spam, foreign USB devices and Internet downloads. Cyber bandits are also using social utility websites such as Facebook to obtain personal and confidential details that allow them to steal the identity of their victims and use it for their own financial gain.
“Identity theft is when someone wrongfully uses someone else’s personal information for fraudulent purposes such as to obtain a credit card or loan, open retail accounts, rent a place to stay, open a cell phone contract, secure finance for a car or house and, get married.
“It’s a widespread global phenomenon that has gained considerable momentum in South Africa in the last five years because people who are uninitiated to this type of crime, unwittingly open themselves up to identity theft by being a little too trusting and even frivolous about who they share their personal information with. By posting their personal information online for all to see, they make themselves easy targets for cyber criminals and the consequences can be dire.
“The repercussions for the individual can be far reaching from financial loss to possible loss of reputation through actions of the perpetrator. For businesses the impact can be catastrophic. For one there is the financial loss, which can run into the millions, as well as the damage to reputation and loss of productivity to worry about. All of which, depending on the severity of the attack, can impact on a company’s ability to continue operating and generate income,” warns Morris.
Morris concludes with this advice: “The security threats that come with having an Internet presence fall into two main categories, technical and non-technical. The technological threats are forever changing and in order to ensure ongoing protection from them companies must make internet access management a critical component of their IT security strategy."