The past month has been tough for South Africa as multiple major institutions across both the private and public sectors were hit by cyberattacks. It has placed a bright neon sign on the fact that no one is safe in today’s digitally-entrenched world. Not in the least South African citizens whose personal data is at constant risk of being snatched by dubious actors from far away. Here’s a look at which threats the country is facing right now and what the general public (i.e., everyone) can do to safeguard themselves.
The Biggest Cyber Threats Plaguing SA Right Now
On 19 October, a series of DDoS attacks targeted various ISPs, bringing connectivity down to a snail’s pace for their customers. Those affected included Atomic Access, Cool Ideas, Webafrica, Afrihost, and Axxess. Sections of Liquid Telecom’s network were affected in the attack as well. All the service providers managed to get their services back to normal, but some (including Afrihost and Webafrica) were hit again a couple of days later.
The next big cyberattack targeted numerous local banks with DDoS attacks that overwhelmed services like online and mobile banking. According to SABRIC, an unknown group sent a ransom note to the banks’ staff’s public email addresses along with the attack. It should be noted, however, that this was later identified to be a multi-jurisdictional attack that targeted multiple countries.
To further rub salt in the wound, attacks also breached the City of Johannesburg’s network on the 23 of October. This left the city’s information systems compromised. There’s no indication of what information has been stolen or how this breach occurred. Although the hackers did contact the city asking for 4 bitcoins in ransom while threatening to release sensitive data. According to the city’s social media, they quickly shut down various systems, including their e-services, after receiving the threat as a precaution.
While attacks on major institutions make for big news, it is worth noting that they aren’t the only targets. Small businesses and individuals are being threatened as well.
How South Africans Can Stay Secure in the Face of Increased Cyberthreats
There are things that people can do to protect themselves, their homes, businesses, and their places of work. The tips below help secure the most vulnerable digital areas, including people’s data, accounts, and connections. Taking these precautions won’t keep all cybercriminals at bay since new threats keep evolving; they will, however, help people avoid most cyberattacks.
Follow these 5 tips for better cybersecurity:
- Use Security Software:
Take care to keep computers and other devices safe from malicious programs and invaders with the right software. There are a plethora of great security solutions out there that cater to everyone’s individual needs. Shop around a bit to find one that’s a good fit.
- Keep Software & Applications Updated:
Every single digital device out there has (or should have) a security component in its software. Make sure that its operating system receives regular updates – install them manually if need be, but allow automatic updates when available. Similarly, keep software and apps updated as well to patch any vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit.
- Strong, Unique Passwords are Key:
Everyone knows that they should use unique and complicated passwords when logging into accounts. But many still don’t follow that rule in practice. People should use a password manager, if needed, to keep track of all the different passwords they have for their various accounts.
- Set Up a VPN:
A connection that is protected by a VPN will have its data secured via encryption and run through a VPN server (https://nordvpn.com/servers/). This shields that connection from any outsiders who might want to steal information as it’s being sent or received. This includes passwords, banking details, credentials, and other sensitive information.
- Secure IoT Devices:
The world’s massive network of unsecured IoT devices is one big reason why criminals can easily make DDoS attacks happen. Make sure that all internet-connected devices and appliances are password-protected and connected through a VPN, if possible. Don’t stick with the login details from the manufacturer when buying a new device – change them as soon as possible.
South Africa has been hit with plenty of cyberattacks over the past 10 years from both local culprits and large international crime rings. However, things seem to be escalating, and this past month saw multiple large-scale attacks from within a few days of each other.
Those who are concerned about their digital safety should stick to the latest cybersecurity trends to keep their accounts and devices safe. The tips provided here are a good start.