A Lack of Cyber Security Makes South Africans Victims

Governments and companies around the world have been rushing to protect themselves and the public from online scamming and cybercrime in recent years. However, even with progress on the cyber security front, ransomware attacks and attacks on small businesses, specifically, continue. In 2023, alone, more than 343 million individuals became victims of digital attacks.

Why Cyberattacks Are So Prevalent in South Africa

577 malware attacks occur every hour in South Africa, so it is no surprise that the nation is the most targeted in Africa by cybercriminals. SA is also one of the top ten targeted countries in the world, according to a study by the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

Security HQ published an article outlining the 3 main reasons South Africa is so susceptible to cyberattacks:

1. Poor investment in cyber security systems

While the South African government has recognised the need for cyber security systems, a shortage of funds and skilled labour in the tech industry could thwart these efforts.

2. Lack of awareness

There is a noticeable lack of training and resources for individuals who would like to study cyber security or IT, as well as the general public. Everyone should be aware of basic cyber safety measures so they can ensure their information remains safe and they are not scammed online.

3. Outdated laws and law enforcement training

The South African Cyber Crime Bill came into effect in 2021 but still lacks the measures necessary for the country’s police to adequately study cyber security and cybercrime.

Why Cyberattacks Are So Prevalent in South Africa

Small to medium businesses are the main targets of cybercrime in South Africa. A study published by BizCommunity explained that the reason for this is their limited resources, lack of awareness among owners and employees, and lack of available expertise.

However, it is not only small to medium businesses facing cyberattacks in South Africa. The South African Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) was the victim of a recent cyberattack in March of this year. This breach exposed the sensitive data of millions of companies. This data included registration details for companies, intellectual property rights, and the ID numbers and addresses of directors.

Richard Frost, head of consulting at Armata, said this information could be used by the hackers to target the business and its directors. In a less direct attack, the hackers could also study how the business communicates with its customers and send out fraudulent emails or SMSs prompting customers to give up their sensitive information or even money. This is a massive problem, not only because the company could lose a lot of money and their good name but also because their whole customer case could become victims of the attack.

What Types of Cybercrimes Are Most Common?

Cybercrime does not only affect businesses, it also affects millions of ‘ordinary’ individuals every year. Therefore, even if you do not want to study cyber security, you should still study the most common types of cyberattacks, that occur in South Africa, to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of one of them:

1. Online scams or ‘phishing’

These constitute fake emails or SMSs that claim to be from a legitimate source. These are often used to elicit sensitive personal or financial information from unsuspecting individuals.

2. Digital extortion

This occurs when an individual is tricked into sharing compromising images of themselves which are then used by the extortionist to blackmail the individual.

3. Ransomware

Criminals block the computer systems of individuals, businesses or government institutions and then demand money to restore them.

The standout feature of studying at UCT is certainly the recognition students will receive from both local and international organisations due to the university and its courses being the highest-ranked university overall in South Africa.

The Good News

The good news is various industry-leading tech companies are working very hard to prevent or stop online scamming and cybercrime. Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) is at the forefront of this effort to strengthen cyber security. The DCU’s priority is to protect victims, and it does this through a hybrid technical and legal approach. This hybrid approach became necessary after a study by the DCU brought to light the professionalisation of cybercrime. Research showed cybercriminals acting within syndicate-like hierarchies with separate departments for the different aspects of cybercrimes.

Although companies are investing significant resources into cyber security, a study by Forbes showed an ever-increasing workforce gap of 4 million professionals in 2023. This has made it especially difficult for businesses to protect themselves from digital attacks.

It is clear from each study mentioned above that both businesses and individuals need to assess the cyber security protocols they have in place or lack thereof in order to ensure their digital safety.

With many a study proving how big a risk cyberattacks have become to large enterprises, small businesses and individuals, ensuring the implementation of both corporate and personal digital security, and taking the time to study how you or your business are susceptible to cyberattacks is of the utmost importance and could prevent you from becoming a victim.

Would you like to Study Cyber Security?

With a Belgium Campus iTversity IT qualification, you will be well-prepared to go into the cyber security field after you study. You could even join the Cyber Security Club if you would like to learn more about the field with like-minded peers. If thwarting cyberattacks is your passion, study an IT degree at Belgium Campus iTversity and take advantage of the current skills gap.

-Rebecca Jones