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A hacker is on the line

27 May 2015 - 02:23 By Graeme Hosken

Hackers around the world are targeting South African cellphone users. This country is the 14th-most popular target for cyber criminals but few South Africans appreciate the risks they are facing.Vodacom's chief technology security officer, Vernon Fryer, said South Africa was hit by its first cellphone "ransomware" attack last month.Ransomware is software that a hacker uses to embed a virus on a device that encrypts the data stored on the device. The data become inaccessible to the user. The hacker promises to release a decryption code that will make the data available again - if he's paid off.Of the 650000 smartphones in South Africa, fewer than 65% have any form of protection against such scams - but there are more than 28000 mobile-device viruses.Fryer, speaking on the sidelines of the ITWeb Security Summit, in Midrand, Johannesburg, yesterday, said there were 360million "security events" on Vodacom's network every day." It's difficult to determine how many of these result in actual attacks because they are all 'outbound' incidents, leaving South Africa. The only way to know if they materialise into an actual attack is to reach the end user."The hacking landscape has definitely changed."Although there are strict laws prohibiting 'listening in' on conversations and reading documents by the state, everyone is vulnerable, especially to hackers."South Africans don't yet understand the value of information and love giving it out."People realise the value of information only when the device is lost or the data compromised."He said ransomware specifically targeted high-profile people, such as CEOs, often identified from Twitter. Fryer said tablets were particularly at risk because of the type and volume of data they stored.Danny Myburgh, managing director of Cyanre, The Computer Forensic Lab, said: "What is alarming is the number of people who, instead of reporting such attacks, pay the ransom."Ransomware is a huge threat and is easy to slip through virus protection programs."For every 20 phones we come across, maybe one has antivirus protection."This threat, which has been coming for years, is now a reality for which South Africans are definitely unprepared."..

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