Expect advanced phishing attacks on smart phones, warns cyber security expert

Next year will likely become known for advanced phishing attacks on smart phones, according to cyber security expert Anna Collard, founder and managing director of Popcorn Training.

As part of their cyber crime onslaught, cyber criminals can use artificial intelligence (Ai) and machine learning for social engineering, Collard said at the Moving to Mastery: Women in Tech & Digital Conference in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Wikipedia defines social engineering in the context of information security as the psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. "It is easier to hack a human than to hack technology. People are emotional beings and cyber criminals know that," said Collard.

Cyber criminals can determine an individual's personality type by looking at what he or she likes on social media. Certain personality types are more easily scammed into clicking on links, for instance. This is useful for cyber criminals because phishing remains the most successful type of cyber attack.

Wikipedia defines phishing as the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

"Cyber criminals offer their services to people who can scam you. As for ransomware attacks on places like hospitals, schools and critical infrastructure, cyber criminals don't care about putting people's lives in danger," said Collard.

"And don't think local gangs are only interested in the drug trade. They are recruiting IT specialists to commit cyber crime. Not only is there potentially more money to be made from cyber crime, but the local police don't know how to handle cyber crime."

According to Collard there is a huge skills shortage in the cyber security sector, not only in SA, but globally. Women still make up only 20% of those working in the cyber security space. She pointed out that jobs in the industry are diverse, from systems analysts and security engineers to the governance side of auditing and the human side of training and creating awareness.

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