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Is Your Information Secure In The Run-up to the Annual Christmas e-commerce rush

Eastern European and Russian online fraudsters make up the lion’s share of the “six figure” hacking attempts directed at local ICT networks every day. That’s according to South Africa’s Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) which says the key to better protecting the country’s transactional consumers lies in better information sharing.

“Securing a network that can be accessed by hackers anywhere in the world is a moving target that depends on regularly updated information. Unfortunately, there is a silence amongst ISPs and large corporates in the interests of protecting reputations. Convincing consumers and ourselves that South African ICT networks are impenetrable is counterproductive,” says Dominic Cull, ISPA regulatory advisor.

He explained that local networks connected via the worldwide web are constantly attacked by hackers who attempt to steal valuable financial information or obtain fraudulent telecoms revenue.

In the run-up to the annual Christmas e-commerce rush, Cull said ISPA was issuing a call to its members to brainstorm ways for the industry to collaborate more closely on how network security incidents could be turned into learning opportunities.

ISPA has already engaged with SABRIC, the South African Banking Risk Information Centre, a non-profit company focusing on industry efforts in combating bank-related crime. The Association has also prepared ISP industry input to the proposed Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill.

Although an industry lobbying group, ISPA was founded with a strong consumer protection mandate and strives to remind consumers that there is no such thing as a secure system.

“Consumers can have confidence in their banks, insurance firms and others, and still be vigilant about their personal information,” said Cull.

He provided the following tips and hints for consumers this Festive Season:

  1. Put the same effort into protecting yourself in the online world as you do in the offline world. South Africans spend a fortune on real-world security measures. Spend the same amount of time thinking about online security as you do researching armed response firms and you should be OK.
  1. Be discerning about where you place sensitive financial information like credit card numbers. Do not email this information and consider downloading a ‘bank vault’ type of app to store this information securely on your computer.
  1. Consider opening a separate bank account used solely for online purchases. Here you can apply for a very reasonable credit limit so that any potential loss is a small one and easily survivable.
  1. Always enable password protection on your mobile devices’ home screens so that no one can simply pick up your hardware and gain access to potentially sensitive information. It is indeed a hassle entering a four digit password every time you need to access your phone, but at least you will have the peace of mind knowing it is secure when left unattended.
  1. Prepaid options when it comes to airtime and other goods and services are always more secure and less prone to unfortunate, hacker-related surprises at debit order time.

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