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Why is SA a Popular Target for Cybercrime?

As the use and reliance on technology and the internet grows, so does the opportunities for cyberattacks (Mcanyana, Brindley & Seedat, 2020). Since 2019, South Africa has seen a sharp increase in cyberattacks on ”banks, Internet service providers (ISPs), utilities,  eCommerce platforms, and consumers explains Mcanyana, Brindley & Seedat (2020). This spike in cyber threats continued to grow throughout the Covid-19 pandemic revealing a variety of vulnerabilities in South Africa’s cybersecurity. 

So why has South Africa become a popular target? 

Cybercriminals may believe that South African companies have lower defense barriers or that they have a lower chance of being caught or prosecuted (Mcanyana, Brindley & Seedat, 2020).

According to Mcanyana, Brindley & Seedat (2020), the increased interest in South Africa regarding cybercrime could be a result of the following factors:

1. Poor investment in cyber security skills and solutions

Cybercriminals are believed to favour South Africa because they believe that South African organisations have weaker defenses when compared to first-world countries like Germany. Cybercriminals are also under the impression cyber security is not considered a necessity, therefore leading to ”a lack of investment in cyber security and skills training” (Lack Of Investment In Cyber Security And Skills Training Makes South Africa A Target, 2021). 

There are several aggravating factors that hinder South Africa’s ability to mitigate cyber threats. These factors being that South Africa “struggles with high crime rates, inequality and poverty, high unemployment, and a shortage of skilled labour” (Mcanyana, Brindley & Seedat, 2020). 

Although developing countries, such as South Africa, do acknowledge the need for sophisticated cybersecurity and resilience, there is often a shortage of funds available to invest in cybersecurity technologies. Businesses that are able to invest, struggle to find skilled cybersecurity workers explains Mcanyana, Brindley & Seedat (2020).

2. The public’s insufficient knowledge of cybercrime and threats

According to iDefense analysts, South African internet users are inexperienced and less technically alert than users in other nations (Mcanyana, Brindley & Seedat, 2020).

The results of a report concluded that 50% of respondents were not aware of multifactor authentication or its benefits (Mcanyana, Brindley & Seedat, 2020). 

With the increased drive to adopt remote working solutions and as more of the South African population connects to the internet, the combination of inexperience and increased exposure provides a breeding ground for cyberattacks. This makes it particularly easy for cybercriminals to target individuals with little technical knowledge explains Mcanyana, Brindley & Seedat (2020).

3. Cybercrime legislation and law enforcement training

Cybercriminals are aware that in developing countries, cybercrime legislation and cybercrime training for law enforcement is far from the  “advanced stages as in developed countries” (Lack Of Investment In Cyber Security And Skills Training Makes South Africa A Target, 2021). 

South Africa’s Cyber Crimes Bill was signed into law in 2021, bringing South Africa’s laws in line with the rest of the world (Prassad, 2022). While this new law gives the South African Police Service the power to act against cybercrimes, “a lack of cybercrime training may cause challenges in the short term” (Mcanyana, Brindley & Seedat, 2020).

As the frequency of cyberattacks grow and cybercriminals grow in sophistication, there is a need for South African businesses to both defend themselves and protect their customers.

References:

Felix Risk Training Consultants. 2021. Lack Of Investment In Cyber Security And Skills Training Makes South Africa A Target. [online] Available at: <https://www.frtc.co.za/2021/03/01/lack-of-investment-in-cyber-security-and-skills-training-makes-south-africa-a-target/2021/>

Masterson, V., 2021. There’s a shortage of 4 million cybersecurity workers. South Africa is trying to fix that. [online] The Print. Available at: <https://theprint.in/world/theres-a-shortage-of-4-million-cybersecurity-workers-south-africa-is-trying-to-fix-that/658615/>

Mcanyana, W., Brindley, C. and Seedat, Y., 2020. Insight into the Cyberthreat Landscape in South Africa. [ebook] Accenture, pp.7, 8. Available at: <https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/PDF-125/Accenture-Insight-Into-The-Threat-Landscape-Of-South-Africa-V5.pdf>

Prasad, S., 2022. Defending the public sector against increasing cybersecurity threats. [online] SAIEE. Available at: <https://www.saiee.org.za/News/DisplayNewsItem.aspx?niid=51623>

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