THE latest research conducted by Kaspersky, a global software firm, shows that defending corporate infrastructure against cybercriminal attacks has become a serious challenge for information and technology (IT) security specialists globally.
The study found that 52% of IT specialists are convinced these targeted cyber attacks will become even more frequent.
Globally, many businesses and consumers have lost millions of rand in cybercriminal attacks. The proliferation of the mobile web in South Africa means increasing numbers of consumers are vulnerable to cybercrime when they access the internet using their cell phones. The top cyber services targeted are internet banking, e-commerce and social media sites.
According to Kaspersky’s report, which was released last week, one third of the global specialists surveyed believed that sooner or later their company would face a targeted cyber attack.
More than 3,300 senior IT professionals from 22 countries took part in the survey. Although South Africa was not one of the countries, it is not immune to cybercrime.
A report released this month by Norton Cybercrime has ranked South Africa as the third-worst country in the world in terms of the frequency of cybercrime, behind Russia and China.
Daniella Kafouris, a legal risk advisory manager at Deloitte, said the annual global price tag of consumer cybercrime was about $110bn.
She said the perception that cybercrime was an "overseas" problem was incorrect because cybercrime throughout Africa was on the rise.
Companies and consumers should be vigilant of local cybercrimes, such as identity theft, data leakage, online fraud, and data theft by former employees, Ms Kafouris said.
The government and business sector in South Africa should also be raising awareness among consumers about the need for data privacy, she said.
Kaspersky said the share of internet users attacked in South Africa during the third quarter of this year was 21.1%.
"In (the third quarter of 2012), every fifth user in South Africa and Nigeria and every fourth in Kenya faced a form of malware while surfing the internet. This proves the reality of cyber-criminal activity here, and makes us work harder on raising awareness of the necessity of protection measures and offering a robust line of consumer and corporate solutions in the region," said Vasily Dyagilev, the MD of Kaspersky Lab Emerging Markets.
Kaspersky’s aim was to boost its presence and intensify its business activities within the African market — a region that is an important focus for the brand.
The African continent is particularly vulnerable to cyber-security threats. With cheaper and faster internet available, more Africans will be continually connected, increasing the number of "new" internet users that are not security-savvy, the Wolfpack Risk and Information Security Group of Africa stated in a recent report.
Llewellyn Hartnick, cyber security specialist at Thales South Africa, said despite the recognition that cyber security is an issue of growing national importance, there seems to be little awareness that technological developments have a global life span of, at most, six months.
"This means that effective security requires more than identification of the risks or sanctioning of the guilty criminals; it requires preventative mechanisms that are not only customised to specific sectors and operations, but that are, more importantly, continuously upgraded in a way that consistently prevents the growing number of sophisticated attacks on one’s systems," he said.
"The reality is that the smarter technologies and modus operandi of cyber criminals — both locally and abroad — are not being effectively matched by preventative technologies that pass their ‘sell-by date’ after six months of being developed," said Mr Hartnick.
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