Phishers eye SA as 'easy target'

2014-05-12 11:20
Government departments and agencies should not be granted exceptional exemptions to the provisions of Popi legislation, a security firm says. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

Government departments and agencies should not be granted exceptional exemptions to the provisions of Popi legislation, a security firm says. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

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Cape Town - South Africans are exposed to increased risk in terms of conducting financial transactions online as the country is the second most targeted by cyber criminals, a security expert has asserted.

Globally, SA is the second most targeted country by phishers, and criminals using the technique are determined to steal sensitive data like personal financial information, said Drew van Vuuren, CEO of information security and privacy practice at 4Di Privaca.

The company specialises in security solutions and its research gels with a number of previous studies by industry groups and others which have reported an increase in targeted attacks aimed at stealing personal information.

Phishing is a form of attack where an internet user is directed to a fraudulent website designed to look like a banking or online shopping venue.

Once you input information like username and password, criminals usually close the session or, in some sophisticated cases, direct users to the legitimate site, completing the fraud.

Main target

4Di Privaca said the cost of phishing in SA was $320m in 2013, which accounted for 5% of the global total.

According to a survey conducted by Kaspersky Lab, 45% of phishing attacks were targeted using well-known names of banks and online payment systems.

That was up by 8% on 2012 as criminals pivot toward exploiting personal data harvested from fake websites.

News24 fields a number of calls from disgruntled internet users who have been scammed in sophisticated phishers.

In many cases, the criminals may even follow-up their online scam with phone calls to re-assure victims, posing as Microsoft workers, antivirus company employees and even Sars representatives.

Unlike malware which infects a particular machine, phishing sites can potentially be a threat to any device that opens the website and scammers have been known to employ this technique in conjunction with spam e-mails.

Kaspersky said that in 2013, banks were the main target, used in over 70% of phishing attacks. That's up from 52% in 2012 and just four online payment platforms were used last year: PayPal, American Express, Master Card and Visa.

Banks in South Africa have systems in place to shut down phishing sites, but the process is largely reactive.

"When it comes to phishing... if it's a South African-based website that's actually sending out those mails, the systems that the banks have in place are able to detect those sites quite quickly. Within a short space of time, those sites are actually shut down," Kalyani Pillay, CEO of the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) told News24 recently.

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