Research conducted by security company Symantic has found a 42%increase in targeted cyber attacks in its annual Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR).
The report finds that small businesses in the manufacturing sector are particularly vulnerable to attacks that specifically target intellectual property.
"This year's ISTR shows that cybercriminals aren't slowing down, and that they continue to devise new ways to steal information from organisations of all sizes," said Gordon Love, Symantic's regional director for Africa.
Symantic said that attacks targeted vulnerabilities related to mobile devices and cloud platforms.
With the exception of Egypt, SA ranks number one for malicious code and phishing attacks, and is third for spam in Africa, though, when taken against the global environment, the country ranks at number 45 for overall internet security, down slightly from 43 in 2011.
The reality of cybercrime was illustrated in dramatic fashion recently when Media24 CEO Esmaré Weideman lost thousands in an apparent SIM swap scam.
Her bank was able to freeze her account, but the thieves managed to get away with about R360 000.
According to the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Unit (Unicri), organised crime syndicates have turned to cybercrime and intellectual property theft because weak enforcement made the practice highly profitable.
"Transnational organised crime networks have turned to counterfeiting and piracy to take advantage of the high profits and minimal penalties set forth by intellectual property rights law as well as the weak enforcement measures associated with these crimes," said Marco Musumeci, responsible for the anti-counterfeiting programme at Unicri.
The research found that small businesses made up nearly a third (31%) of all attacks as criminals exploited weak security measures employed by smaller organisations.
Mobile focused attacks have also grown and the survey found that mobile malware increased by 58% in the last year, with 32% of malware specifically designed to steal personal information such as e-mail addresses and phone numbers, Symantic found.
According to the security company, despite the fact that Apple's iOS had the "most documented vulnerabilities", Google's Android operating system had the more threats than any other OS.
Symantic attributed this to the open nature of the OS which already runs over 70% of smartphones globally.
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