Home PodcastJulie Alli Are We Doing Enough in South Africa to Protect Against Online Threats and Scams?

Are We Doing Enough in South Africa to Protect Against Online Threats and Scams?

by Thaabit Kamaar
Image Source: The Witness

South Africa – When it comes to cybersecurity and protecting oneself against various cyber-crimes and online scams, banking institutions, technology companies, and government policies have made extensive efforts to raise awareness of online dangers.

They have provided safety tips and education to help individuals and families safeguard their information during online activities. Despite these efforts, thousands continue to fall victim to cell phone scams and cybercrime.

This is not solely their fault. Cybercriminals constantly evolve their methods, making them more sophisticated. They target people who may not be tech-savvy or aware of the latest security measures and online threats.

While South Africa is experiencing exponential growth in its digital and connectivity landscape, significant challenges remain, particularly in addressing the vast digital divide in the country.

Even in 2024, numerous underprivileged communities lack exposure to technological advancements in computers and cell phones, leaving them unaware of the best practices and safety guidelines for online security.

To bridge this gap, Dr Zubeida Dawood at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) emphasises the need for the private sector to take a more active role in ensuring that awareness initiatives benefit underprivileged communities.

“Continue on with cyber security awareness and education. At the CSIR, we do that a lot. We partner with universities and the private sector to bridge this gap. So just continued effort [is needed]. I think the private sector needs to play a part, too. They could inject money into some of these initiatives, ultimately leading to a safer country.”

SMread| Ceasefire vote: Shift in US vote, not policy

Remain Vigilant to Cybercrime and Online Scams

While we might perceive cybercrime as an isolated phenomenon, it’s a global issue. Major corporations, governmental bodies, and financial institutions continually improve their cybersecurity infrastructure to thwart hackers, extortionists, and other cybercriminals who exploit vulnerabilities to steal sensitive data for monetary gain or to cause disruptions.

Similarly, individuals must remain vigilant and proactively safeguard their personal information and digital assets from cyber threats. Suppose someone contacts you asking for your ID number or password. In that case, it’s crucial to recognise them as criminals and refrain from disclosing personal information.

According to Dr Dawood, among the prevalent cybercrimes is social engineering, wherein individuals are manipulated into revealing confidential information or performing actions that compromise security. This often occurs through tactics like phishing emails, pretexting, or impersonation.

Emerging online scams include SIM swap fraud, in which perpetrators trick a mobile carrier into transferring a victim’s phone number to a SIM card. With the victim’s phone number in their hands, fraudsters can intercept calls, messages, and authentication codes, granting access to sensitive accounts and enabling unauthorised transactions.

More recently, there has been an uptick in contactless payment scams, exploiting the ease of tap-and-go technology to conduct illicit transactions. Fraudsters achieve this by inserting stolen bank card information into digital wallets, bypassing the need for a one-time password (OTP) to be sent to the registered cellphone number.

To protect against contactless payment scams, Dr Dawoord advises prioritising the virtual card on mobile devices and securely storing physical cards. Additionally, it’s essential to limit near-field communication (NFC), the function which allows for short range wireless communication between two devices such as cell phone and payment machine, usage and enable it only when necessary.

“Limit that usage, enabling it only when you’re paying and keeping it disabled at all other times. So choose a balance that works for you, but you do have the option as the client to decide what’s best for your situation.”

Related Videos