cyberWith the recent outcry from Hollywood celebs after their naked selfies were leaked, the spotlight is once again on online data security. Foresight Advisory Services’ Heine van Niekerk takes a look at the growing cybercrime threat in South Africa.

Until recently, cybercriminals have tended to target countries with higher national income levels, according to the Global Cost of Cybercrime report, compiled by Intel-owned McAfee software on behalf of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). “This may change as low-income countries increase their access and use of the Internet for commercial purposes and as cybercriminals continue to refocus onto mobile platforms, the preferred source for connectivity in the developing world.”

Greg Griessel, Consulting Systems Engineer Security Solutions, Cisco South Africa, confirms this: “Organisations across the Middle East and Africa must realise that it is no longer if they will be targeted by cyber-attacks but rather when,” reported Mail & Guardian in April. In the report, McAfee that that cybercrime has an economic impact equal to about 0.14% of the country’s total GDP. ”With a GDP contribution of close to US$390 billion (R4.1 trillion), this means cyber-crime in SA is costing the country over US$550 million (R5.8 billion) a year,” notes Business Tech.

According to Kaspersky Lab’s report on cyber threats in Africa, there were over 4.6 million cyber-attacks and malware infections on the computers and mobile devices of users in South Africa (approximately 10% of the region’s total number) in the first quarter of 2014. The majority (3.89 million) of those incidents were associated with local threats.

In May this year, 12 people (11 Nigerians, 1 South African) were arrested in Pretoria for their alleged involvement in an international cybercrime syndicate. According to Sapa, the syndicate used fraudulent credit card information or stolen identities to purchase shipping labels from the US Postal Service (USPS), Federal Express, United Parcel Service and DHL. “Once the merchandise reached South Africa, the group advertised it for sale on the internet,” reports Sapa.

According to Phishield, the top 10 scams in South Africa are:

1. Identity theft

2. Phishing

3. Smishing

4. Credit card fraud

5. Card skimming

6. Counterfeit credit card fraud

7. Lost and stolen credit card fraud

8. Card not present (CNP) fraud

9. Account takeover card fraud

10. Cheque fraud

Read about these scams in more detail on The Media Online. As we head into National Cyber Security Awareness Month in October, it’s vital that we arm ourselves as individuals, businesses and government against the rising scourge of cyber threats. In an interview with ENCA, Craig Rosewarne from Wolfpack Information Risk talks about the growing issue of cybercrime in SA.

It’s time to stop believing that those movie-style hoodied hackers can’t get us – they can and they will if we’re not careful. “The cybercrime network is expanding, strengthening, and, increasingly, operating like any legitimate, sophisticated business network,” notes the Cisco 2014 Annual Security Report. Cue the collective rush to renew those lapsed anti-virus and internet security subscriptions!