Small businesses are increasingly becoming prey for hackers, espionage, online fraud and social engineering. It is a growing and pervasive plague across the world.
South Africa is not immune. According to a recent media report by Fin24, cybercrime costs us around R1 billion a year. Internationally, SA has the sixth-highest rate of cybercrime.
In the last few years, there has been a shift away from traditional white-collar crime to cybercrime. According to international statistics, illegal profits of cybercrime will become the highest of all white-collar crime. For example, the massively successful Trojan, Zeus, hit the UK banking sector hard in terms of costly online banking thefts and fraud. The rest of Europe was also affected by the Trojan.
In South Africa, we have also seen an increase in Internet banking and credit card fraud. There are criminals using ICT platforms to gain illegal access to data-access, electronic vandalism and to intercept sensitive or value-rich communications.
The obtrusive forms of cybercrime – hacking, phishing, data espionage and data interference – has been compounded by sophisticated related crimes, such as intellectual property theft, identity theft and social engineering.
These criminals are targeting smaller businesses in South Africa, from as far away as Nigeria, India, and Russia. Keep in mind, these criminals are seldom a rogue hacker but highly organised and effective syndicates.
Social engineering relies on manipulating social networking and face-to-face interactions to soften or fool victims. Increasingly, these criminals take advantage of a user’s trust in social networking connections – on Facebook, Twitter, etc. – to attract fresh prey.
Switching it up
Overall, the latest trend in cybercrime is a change in platform from computers to cell and smartphones, Android tablets and iPads. We all know about phishing, which is fraud related to e-mails and passwords. Now criminals also exploit voice over Internet protocols (VoIP) to perpetrate vishing – telephonic-based phishing swindles. With staff using their own devices for work, this opens up more and more points of attack. For example, smishing – a form of SMS phishing – is also becoming more prevalent.
Criminals have also exploited the second factor in cybercrime: the human factor. Social engineering is a highly effective tool for criminals – they target individuals to infiltrate your company, or exploit and manipulate them to assist in stealing data and funds, not to mention using them to sabotage your credibility.
Don’t forget that once your company or organisation has been targeted, criminals can destroy your reputation or social trust, impersonate personnel online, conceal identity, launder money, steal resources, or extort people within your organisation.
While the Internet may be a small keyhole, it can unlock a Pandora’s box of cybercrime, which will multiply again and again once it has been opened.
Most companies have stringent spyware, anti-virus software and HR policies governing information. Network administrators can block dangerous network activity, block the download of unknown programs and use encryption to limit risk.
However, there is no technology that can eradicate human error. While cybercriminals may bribe or collude with people within your organisation to commit a crime, most rely on the ignorance, laziness or even their willingness to be helpful.
Education is essential. Companies need to start creating an awareness of cybercrime among employees, shareholders, vendors and other stakeholders. For example, they need to know the risks of using their own devices for work purposes – just leaving a smartphone unattended in a coffee shop could present an opportunity to a criminal.
Even in the office, misuse of company information and communication technology (ICT) can put your company’s security at risk.
Using Skype or IM, file sharing, visiting entertainment or adult sites – these make the device vulnerable because these are the sites hackers use to gain access to your company. It takes just one infected computer to make the whole IT infrastructure sick.
When using Facebook, for example, individuals should not click on any link that looks like spam, even if it comes from a trusted friend. It is always a good idea to limit the information posted on social media.
Because your staff has access to your corporate information daily – passwords, financial statements, procurement documents, intellectual property, marketing strategies – it makes sense to make them the guardians of this information.
Every staff member must be trained on ITC security awareness – what to look for, what to report and, more importantly, what not to do online. It should be a part of your HR, security and management programmes. It makes sense for companies to give people the tools they need to fight cybercrime – the facts, the guidelines, the resources.
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