The spate of cyberattacks targeting individuals in South Africa in recent months necessitates a more cautious approach to our online activities.
What can we do to become more cybersecurity aware especially with the festive season around the corner?
Not only must digitally-connected South Africans keep the threats of previous years in mind, but hackers have become more sophisticated thanks to the connected lifestyles of South Africans. For example, email and text phishing will almost certainly remain a constant threat. However, more elaborate tactics designed to compromise your financial information and steal your identity are coming to the fore.
Before we explore some of these, also remember that this is an opportune time for fraudsters to exploit our collective goodwill. Fake charity scams are not unique to the internet. But when combined with all the COVID-19 scams that have been flooding our devices the past several months, it is easy to have one slip through and donate by accident. The best way to mitigate the risk of this happening is to phone the charity and confirm the outreach to your device. The minute or two it takes to make a call can save you countless hours of trying to recover your funds and change your online banking details.
Another familiar, but largely ignored tactic, is to keep your mobile device locked when you are not using it. Lost or stolen phones and tablets are perhaps one of the most significant causes of compromised personal data. If your device supports it, activate the biometrics security feature. This would then require either a retinal or full face scan to unlock the device. At the very least you must lock your phone or tablet with a strong password that contains upper and lowercase characters, special characters (for example $,%, &) and at least one number.
One of the most critically important lessons is to never use public Wi-Fi networks especially when it comes to your online banking and shopping. Even though it is tempting to use the Wi-Fi available at a coffee shop, restaurant, or shopping centre, rather switch your wireless access off completely. Using specialised tools, hackers can ‘eavesdrop’ on these public networks and steal your passwords and other details without you being any the wiser.
Now, when it comes to your device, it is important to always keep your apps and operating system (whether it is Android, iOS, or something else) up to date with the latest patches. These contain essential security features that protect you against some of the latest developments in cyberattacks. Also, uninstall applications you do not use. Not only will this free up additional storage space, but it also reduces your digital footprint by eliminating potential weak points in your security.
It is advisable to disable your location settings when you are out and about. For example, if you check-in at the movies or at the destination of your fishing trip, those who follow you on social media will see you are not at home. Criminals might exploit this information to break in or commit other nefarious acts. As part of this, wait until you are home from holiday before sharing those happy snaps of the beach or bush getaway.
The final tip is the most obvious of all. Your phone and tablet are the windows to your online life. And just like you would not dream of running a laptop without security software installed, so too must your mobile devices also include protective software. It might be tempting to download freely available software to accomplish this, but rather invest a few rands into buying a quality mobile solution.
This will go a long way to ensure your festive season is a safe and happy one.