Tighten up on blocking cyber crime or face financial ruin

14 February 2017 - 09:06
By Nashira Davids

South Africa was hit by more cyber attacks than any other country in Africa in one year but experts say the private and public sectors are not taking the threat seriously enough.

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David Loxton, of international law firm Dentons SA, said many incidents of cybercrime go unreported but research shows that it is increasing rapidly.

He quoted recent figures from software security company Symantec, which showed that globally in 2015 more than 500million personal records were stolen or lost because of cyber crime and phishing attacks increased by 55%.

In 2014 South Africa had the highest number of cyber attacks in Africa and losses were estimated at about R50-billion.

Loxton said "shortcomings in the justice system'' are the biggest obstacle to fighting cybercrime. The police, he said, lack "the resources and specialist skills to take on the complex, multijurisdictional investigations required''.

The laws necessary to prosecute cyber criminals either do not exist or are inadequate - both locally and internationally, said Loxton.

"For all these reasons, prevention is definitely better than cure when it comes to cyber crime.

"Companies should be proactive about using technology to protect themselves and at least limit any damage. For example, intelligent software exists that analyses all financial transactions as they occur so that anomalies can be immediately flagged for investigation.

"This kind of software can also provide deep analysis of company data to uncover some of the common white-collar frauds that can cost companies millions over long periods of time.

"The multinationals are definitely investing heavily in protective technologies but South African companies are not - a short-term approach that has potentially devastating long-term consequences."

In October Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development John Jeffery said his department would "review and align of cyber security laws'' and was working on a cyber crimes and cyber security bill.

Jeffreys said enhancing cyber security and protecting critical information infrastructure was "essential to each nation's security and economic wellbeing. Cyber crime is a major and growing threat to South African business."