We've got news for you.

Register on Sunday Times at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

Stop being such a show-off to save yourself from cyber crime


Stop being such a show-off to save yourself from cyber crime

South Africans are way too flashy on the Internet and criminals are taking full advantage of it


South Africans’ “flashy” online profiles and behaviour made them their own worst enemies when it came to exposing themselves to cyber attacks.
A tendency to over-share and readily divulge personal details such as full names, contact details and locations made exposing South Africans “extremely easy for cyber criminals”, said Council for Science and Industrial Research cyber security researcher Thulani Mashiane.
South Africans were marginally better than Americans when it came to acting safely online, but not nearly as good as Europeans who “understand the security implications associated with sharing your personal information publicly”, Mashiane said.    
“The South African cyber profile is ‘hashtag its nice time’, ‘look at me’ and ‘I'm living my life’. They are very flashy online, especially among the youth. They want you to know they're doing well,” said Mashiane, whose research focuses on the human aspect of cyber security.“They want to be seen and heard. With that is creating a danger for themselves because now that you are visible, you're also visible to the hacker. So if I know that you're living your best life in Dubai, and I know exactly where you live because you take several selfies in front of your house and you've shown me every appliance that you've ever bought, it makes it so much easier for criminals to waltz into your house and take what they want.”
Mashiane said personal information shared on social media was also used by hackers to fool people into sharing more information about themselves, by using social engineering techniques.
“Don’t over-share. Think before you click. Personal information can be used to answer security questions for certain accounts, identity theft, direct marketing and by stalkers”, she said.According to Muyowa Mutemwa, senior cyber security specialist at the CSIR, South Africans were turning to the Internet to offset financial strain during tough economic times by trying to earn a passive income online.
Mutemwa said that people were losing millions through investment in cryptocurrency and were often being duped by cyber criminals when trying to sell personal goods online to earn extra money.
“The biggest threat we have is people wanting to have an alternate or passive form of income aside from what they get from their jobs,” he said.
“The cyber world presents a fast, convenient way of getting income while sharing some element of your personal identity.
“The challenge we have is that our users don't make use of all of the security features that come with these applications. They are not fully understanding the kind of exposure they are opening themselves to.”
Some of the most common passwords used by South Africans last year were “123456”, “Password”, “12345678”, “Qwerty” and their names and date of birth.
Safer passwords which are harder to crack should include a mix of capital letters, lower case, numbers and should be made-up of phrases (a random collection of words). There are applications online that create password phrases for people.The most vulnerable web browsers in descending order were Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari and then Opera.
Mutemwa said the order was created because hackers first targeted browsers with the most users.
“Cybercriminals also love public open networks such as Internet café networks, coffee shop Wi-Fi and conference Wi-Fi. Use secure networks for banking. No banking or social networking on public Wi-Fi,” he said.
Mashiane said more education was required to better protect people from becoming victims of cybercrime.
“Organisations do a lot of cyber security awareness training in-house. It would be great if they also brought it out. Think of it as teaching a person how to cross the road. It will be beneficial if everyone knows because the streets will be safer.”

This article is reserved for Sunday Times Daily subscribers.
A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times Daily content.

Sunday Times Daily

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems?
Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.

Previous Article