Regulation and vigilance remain the key to mobile service security

Issue 1 2022 Security Services & Risk Management

Security has been as much of a challenge in the digital world as it has been beneficial. The more technology advances to make our lives easier, so do the tricks of cybercriminals that threaten this convenience – for both business and consumers.

Ilonka Badenhorst.

Additionally, as data continues to be valuable and cybercrime a lucrative growing business, we need to maintain cautious digital practices, to ensure the safety and integrity of our data. And to my mind, this will continue to be an ongoing challenge in the year to come.

If we consider the high demand around mobile devices and apps, especially over the past two years, where work and learn from home policies are now prevalent, then you understand why mobile devices have now become an even closer companion for most people - and therefore a prime target for cybercriminals. Unfortunately, the average person does not have the knowledge or the exposure to timely updates or information on new threats, to effectively mitigate these risks.

Added to this is the growing number of start-ups and service providers developing software and mobile apps, both here and abroad. While this growth is great for emerging players and is giving the market an opportunity to flourish, sometimes these apps are poorly managed – from a cyberthreat perspective – or are created with malicious intent to begin with – making it tricky for consumers to distinguish the malicious apps from the safe ones. So, for me, 2022 will be dominated by the challenges of protecting information – from a business and personal perspective – in terms of what it means for security, compliance, service providers and regulatory bodies alike.

The last year was tough for businesses in terms of compliance with the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA), but this year we expect more focus on implementation and adaption – which will set a strong foundation for the security of data – especially with regard to how it is stored and used. As a result, new entrants into the market – such as mobile application providers - will be pushed to have a stronger appreciation of the regulatory landscape ensuring their operations are within the parameters of the law and their audience is well protected against the adverse consequences of non-compliance.

From the consumer perspective the battle around the protection of personal information will also continue – how they share their personal information, to understanding why they need to share it, as well as gaining insights into the security of the platforms they are subscribing to, will become a top priority.

And consumers must be weary because even some of the biggest and most trusted organisations fall victim to cybercrimes every day. As an example, banking app losses are said to have increased by more than 88% last year alone to an average loss of around R14 253 per transaction. Online banking losses have also increased by more than 44% last year to an average loss of R32 298 per transaction where there are nine malware attacks that occur every second in South Africa. With new technologies such as ‘tap-to-pay’ and the ability to pay using wearables, this means that if we are not careful with our devices and the security of our apps, it will become far too easy to fall prey to cybercriminals and financial losses.

This is not to say that people should not enjoy mobile devices or the convenience of applications and their offerings, in fact it is almost impossible to avoid them. KnowBe4, Lynchpin and ITWeb conducted surveys across Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya in 2021 to unpack how remote working was influencing the security landscape for businesses. The survey found that a significant percentage of companies will very likely continue leveraging remote working. The report found that 57% of organisations in South Africa will continue with remote working on a flexible basis. Given this reality and the fact that it’s normal for employees to use both personal and company devices for work purposes throughout the week, security and compliance will be an important part of digital survival.

So 2022 is likely to remain focused around the protection of personal information, cybersecurity practices and adaption, the enforcement of regulation around digital practices and most importantly, education to ensure that employees and consumers better understand the landscape and how to avoid increasing threats.

In the digital world, the vulnerabilities are endless. Being digitally savvy today means understanding not only how to enjoy the offerings of mobile services, but to understand the risks and how to manoeuvre safely.

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