Tips to protect yourself from cyber attacks, as another 1.4m South Africans hit by data breach

With cyber attacks on the rise in SA, consumers have been warned to take steps to protect themselves. Stock photo.
With cyber attacks on the rise in SA, consumers have been warned to take steps to protect themselves. Stock photo.
Image: 123rf

Consumers in SA are alerted to free tools on offer to protect themselves from cybercrime, with news this week of a data breach affecting an African Bank debt collection partner.

The not-for-profit Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) said on Friday the Debt-IN data breach was concerning as the records of 1.4-million South Africans have been compromised.

The information was illegally accessed from Debt-IN servers in April, but the breach only came to light last week with the discovery that confidential consumer data and voice recordings of calls between Debt-IN debt recovery agents and financial services customers had been posted on hidden internet sites that are only accessible by a specialised web browser, the SAFPS said.

“In a country where identity fraud is common practice, this is extremely concerning. It is critical that consumers act now before significant fraud is unknowingly committed on their behalf,” said SAFPS CEO Manie van Schalkwyk.

Other cyber attacks reported recently include Experian (July 2020), Absa (November 2020) and Transnet (June 2021). In the Experian and Absa breaches, personal information of consumers was compromised, he said.

Earlier this month, the justice department also announced that it was a victim of a cyber crime.

SAFPS is collaborating with Secure Citizen and OneVault to counteract “a rapid growth in identity theft following online fraud”.

“Fraudsters do not discriminate. As we continuously move towards the adoption of a digital and more importantly ‘touchless’ era, the platform for fraud increases,” said Dalene Deale, executive head of Secure Citizen.

“Fraud is a fraudster’s business and they often use the same business tactics we use in legitimate business – the difference being they don’t have customers, they have victims. Thanks to an increase in data breaches, fraudsters are motivated and armed with the correct information, meaning they are very capable of impersonating an individual. The impacts of this are catastrophic.”

Van Schalkwyk said: “In SA we are fortunate to have an established identity system governed by the department of home affairs, but many individuals do not participate in the digital economy due to the high levels of fraud or due to a lack of understanding/knowledge. Our Secure Citizen aim is to drive digital inclusivity, which underpins and enables financial inclusion.”

From a consumer perspective, a digital identity solution must be based on an individual’s unique attributes, it must be easy to use, real time and it has to enable trust. The solution must not discriminate against income, gender, geographical location, or even your choice in mobile phone.

For companies, the solution must be interoperable; it cannot discriminate against legacy or future systems, or the maturity of a company’s digital transformation journey. It must be affordable; available to any business regardless of size, whether your business is classified as SMME or Enterprise. Every business in our country has to be able to verify the identity of their existing and potential customers, employees and even directors of their partners.

“Secure Citizen will be making this solution available directly to the public to enrol themselves into the Secure Citizen database – at no cost,” said Deale

“We believe that using your biometrics is your birthright. Nobody should be able to use your information without your knowledge and without your permission.”

SAFPS said one of its most important services is Protective Registration.

Protective registration is a free service protecting individuals against identity theft. Consumers apply for this service and the SAFPS alerts its members to take additional care when dealing with that individual’s details.

“As a society, it is important that we move towards creating a world where the fight against fraud becomes protective and proactive. We need to protect consumers and this needs to be done in a proactive manner. We cannot always be reactive when it comes to fraud,” said Van Schalkwyk.

Additional information can be obtained from the SAFPS website.


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