South Africa’s retail organisations, particularly online stores, could expect a significant ramp-up in cybercrime ahead of the holiday season.

This is the warning from Deon Smal, CEO of Cyber Insight, a Cape-based cyber security assessment firm.

“While data breaches increased alarmingly during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, organisations – particularly those in the e-commerce sector – can expect a ‘tsunami’ of new attacks as the festive season approaches,” he cautions. “This is as a result of intensified on-line shopping activity which creates more opportunities for cyberattacks.”

Smal notes that many companies that supported work-from-home employees during the pandemic – and possibly continue to accommodate a hybrid workforce – have had to take short-cuts in terms of security to rapidly protect sensitive data which is accessed on-line.

“These ‘quick-fixes’ are now leaving these organisations vulnerable to increasingly sophisticated cyber threats. They should be addressed as a matter of urgency,” he says.

According to Smal, the most common threat facing SA companies is a ransomware attack, in which criminals encrypt files and then demand a ransom to restore access. He says that globally, ransomware is viewed as the most malicious of the numerous malware models that were experienced this year.

“Smal encourages organisations, of all sizes, to accurately and comprehensively assess their cyber security positions. This will expose possible vulnerabilities which could result in breaches of security within the corporate infrastructure. This includes basic facilities, structures and services on which businesses rely.

“They should also consider penetration testing to prove the existence and determine the extent of their weaknesses before committing to a definitive security solution to ensure that it offers an appropriate level of protection against the most evolved threats and determined cybercriminals,” he adds.