The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) was a turning point in the adoption of the Information Age. Not only is it a time when technology impacts nearly every facet of our lives, it is also a time when we exist in a physical sense and have a digital footprint which provides insight into our daily lives. October is Cyber Security Awareness Month. While technology has increased our connectivity, it has enabled cybercrime. There are some important trends that need to be taken note of.
Covid-19 has seen a global increase in remote working. “This move gave cyber-criminals a lot of information and possibly access to sensitive information because employees were working over unsecure networks or networks where the security protocols are not as advanced as those of the organisations that they work for,” says Manie van Schalkwyk, CEO of the Southern African Fraud Prevention Services (SAFPS). This could not only enable identity fraud, but also put companies in trouble with the Regulator of the Protection of Private Information Act. He added that, at a time when going back to the office is only happening in stages, remote employees need to remain extra vigilant because cyber criminals will look for one final push before secure networks take over.
Low hanging fruits
Covid-19 has also required that the public has limited interaction with the outside world. Online transactions have increased during this period and the vulnerability of passwords has been highlighted. “Studies show that people are generally very complacent when it comes to changing their passwords. Some never change their passwords or still use passwords that have elements that are easy to guess. These include the names of spouses, children or pets. Important dates are popular when it comes to passwords that have a numerical component,” says Van Schalkwyk These are easily detectable by cyber criminals who are spending time on networks (incognito) and monitoring social media accounts gaining information. There needs to be a lot more vigilance when it comes to passwords.
Currently, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) is being proactive in its encouragement of people to pay their taxes. “The public must be very suspicious. During the provisional tax filing season (which ended at the end of August), companies were receiving smishing (SMS phishing) messages from criminals posing as SARS saying that they (the company) have been pre-assessed and that they owe SARS a certain amount. If the business owner wished to change this, they could follow a specific link. This link would take them to a site which looked like the SARS site, but was a proxy for cyber criminals to acquire all kinds of information,” says Van Schalkwyk adding that this is how easily identity theft can be. A similar tactic is currently being used as individuals are preparing to file their personal income tax. “Be very wary of any pre-assessment SMS that you receive. If you receive one, phone SARS and double check if this is correct. If you are still unsure, contact the SAFPS,” says Van Schalkwyk.
A line in the sand
As a custodian of fraud prevention in South Africa, the SAFPS is at the font line of fraud prevention. The SAFPS has a number of services available to companies and the public to help reduce the risk of fraud. “We have just launched Secure Citizen to organisations which is a platform that enables the digital onboarding of consumers using biometric data. This provides companies with certainty as to the identity of each consumer throughout the entire consumer account life cycle thereby significantly reducing the risk of fraud. Biometric verification is made possible at every touchpoint and prior to each transaction, if required,” says Van Schalkwyk. In addition, the SAFPS has a number of services that it offers consumers. Protective Registration is a free service protecting individuals against future fraud. Consumers apply for this service and the SAFPS alerts its members to take additional care when dealing with that individual’s details. Protective Registration provides an added layer of protection and peace of mind regardless of whether or not the identity of the applicant has been compromised. Through Fraud Victim Registration, the SAFPS will assist applicants in preventing fraud that is a result of identity theft and impersonation. This will protect applicants from associated financial implications. The SAFPS will issue applicants with a Victim of ImpersonationLetter which they can share with future credit providers to assist in any verification processes. “The SAFPS continuously educates consumers on the most effective fraud prevention techniques and solutions. The fraud landscape is ever-changing, and it is important that consumers keep themselves informed on the latest trends and modus operandi that fraudsters use in order to protect themselves from fraud and impersonation. This is why initiatives such as Cyber Security Awareness Month is so important,” says Van Schalkwyk.
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