Imagine the world’s most unfortunate case of Catch 22, and you’ve likely summed up the challenges both businesses and individuals face today.

While we in South Africa aren’t strangers to the concepts of traditional crime (think hijacking, theft, robberies and worse), unless you’re a city in GTA, your local residence likely has a strong stance on combatting all things illegal. Yes, the concept of a Lockdown presented so many challenges we could spend all day talking about them, yet they also presented one major unforeseen benefit: the absence of people in public spaces led to a drastic decrease in crime rates across the board.

Sounds like a win, right? Well, not really, as this conversely led to an increase in online users. The result? As traditional crimes decreased, Cyber Crimes increased, meaning instead of a reduction on illegal activities as a whole, criminals shifted their focus and used their time devising new ways to prey on unsuspecting end users.

Between the Covid-19 pandemic and the seemingly overnight shift to a work-from-home culture, the rise in Cyber Crimes has been unprecedented, and the sad reality is that these numbers are only set to increase. The statistics are, quite frankly, outrageous, and paint a bleak picture with regards to the reality that is Cyber Crimes.

  • According to CyberSecurity Ventures, there were more than 4000 malicious “Covid” related websites created within the first two months of lockdown, designed to prey on unsuspecting users simply looking to gain information about this unprecedented pandemic.
  • Said research also indicates that, as per 2021, there is one Cyber Attack occurring every 11 seconds – the highest number in human history.
  • Cyber Crime is predicted to cost the global economy $6 trillion per year by the end of 2021 – which would make it the world’s third largest economy, behind only the USA and China.
  • In 2015, ransomware alone cost the world around $325 million. Today? That number is estimated at $20 billion – 57% more in 5 years, making it the most rapidly growing (and potentially dangerous) form of Cyber Crime.

It seems as if while the rest of us were starting side hustles or binging our favourite series on Netflix, Cyber Criminals were devising new and innovative ways to take advantage of the “weak”. It’s important to remember that said criminals are masters of manipulating basic human emotions. Fear, loneliness, curiosity and desperation, were all abundant during these past years and, sadly, presented an opening from which to be exploited.

Cyber Criminals were ready to pounce and took advantage of companies trying to adjust to the unique challenges of adjusting to a completely foreign work environment. Between hacks, breaches, phishing, ransomware and Identity Theft, said individuals (sadly) adapted their tactics to perfectly capitalise on what was going on in the real world.

Regardless of who you are, where you are or how big your organisation may be, you’re a potential target.

Attacks are up, our guards are down, and if we’re not careful, any one of us could be next.

Okay, we’re with you, but what hope is there?

Well, the way forward lies in knowing which areas to focus on and identifying where in your armoury you can use the required reinforcement. Between more robust security measures and the adequate end-user training, you may not be able to prevent Cyber Crimes altogether, but at least ensure that your organisation is best equipped to not be a statistic. Here are some basic tips for the business and the individual hoping to secure their Cyber Space:

  • Over 90% of Data Breaches are caused by human error – meaning they’re entirely preventable.
  • Regardless of where they’re working from, ALL employees need to be able to identify and avoid potential threats.
  • As an organisation, it is incumbent upon you to protect yourself by protecting others. Ensure than guidelines around user safety and training sessions are conducted. Regularly.
  • As an end user, you can learn to be wary of file attachments of ANY sort from unknown users or someone outside of your organisation. Do NOT download files from unknown sites and be able to identify secure URLS.
  • Phishing and spear-phishing are two of the most common methods of attack, so you should focus on strong Email encryption while identifying how to spot a scam.
  • Adopt a Zero Trust policy, which basically assumes everything is a threat until otherwise proven.
  • Understand and implement two-factor authentication, strong password protection (which must regularly be changed) and access control only relevant to the employee’s clearance level – don’t give just anyone access to confidential information.
  • Be vigilant: both internal and external threats exist, so conduct proper monitoring (such as penetration tests or assessments) to establish weak points, vulnerabilities or issues with your network.

Just like in real-life, you’ll never be able to completely eradicate Cyber Crimes. However, as the pandemic has proven, you can’t rob someone if there’s nobody to be robbed. Just as empty streets resulted in less criminal activity, so too will the reduction in potential targets present fewer opportunities for these hackers to exploit.

The world we live in has been permanently altered by the pandemic and will likely never look the way it did before. As such, accepting this permanence should also mean accepting that a robust Cyber Security program is now as essential as a locked door and ADT would be to your conventional workspace.