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South Africa is becoming a hackers’ paradise. It’s almost gotten to the point that not a day goes by without another government or commercial attack hitting the news headlines.

As more and more people have the opportunity to access the internet, one could say that the local internet hemisphere is becoming like the wild west. Since the cybercriminals are striking like there’s no tomorrow with no signs of stopping soon, can the cybersecurity professionals keep up?

The cyber threats are evolving

Everyone has seen the scammy email (or a variation of it) in which the Nigerian prince is searching for a worthy successor and promising you a fortune. The caveat? You have to click on a link that leads to a malicious website. Who would have guessed? This particular Nigerian scam was popular not too long ago, but since then, cybercriminals have learned to step up their game and refine their approach.

At first, they were stealing login credentials. After that got old, credit card and banking information became the next logical step. What’s worrying is the fact that businesses lose around $150 million every year due to cybersecurity vulnerabilities. The numbers don’t lie. There are 6000 cyberattacks taking place every single month, and with new technology seeing the light of day regularly, chances are we haven’t reached the plateau yet.

How can South Africa let this happen?

Cyberattacks are a daily reality in South Africa. So the question presents itself – how is it possible that cybercriminals can get away with this? Truth be told, it doesn’t take a lot to determine the source of the problem – their cyber defenses can’t compete. Not only are the standards low, but the same can be said for their general level of awareness.

The quality of the website services comes before security

When it comes to prioritising in South Africa, the fact of the matter is that the service quality always comes before website security. That’s just the way it is. There is always the risk of your sensitive data falling into the wrong hands, so being extra careful by using tools like online VPN (get one from Play Store) to avoid having it intercepted on the way to the server is a must.

Since the market is growing at a fast pace, an increasing number of business owners find themselves losing money due to not having adequate knowledge of how to defend themselves against cyber attacks. But don’t think that the government websites are any better in this regard. Since it’s less work, they tend to rely on templates as opposed to coding something from scratch. This makes them more vulnerable than you could imagine.

Can the software companies handle all this pressure?

South African software companies that are in charge of protecting these websites are up against a ton of pressure. Since the deadlines are as tight and unforgiving as they can be, coming up with a robust security network to power a website is often an impossible task to accomplish. This type of work takes months to finish, and they’re asked to deliver in weeks. It’s that crazy.

Substandard levels of cybersecurity carry their own consequences

The educated hacker needs around 15 to 20 minutes to bypass the security measures of a typical South African website. Once they manage to obtain access to it, they can stay undetected and pilfer pretty much anything they want, including stealing data and vandalising the content. It’s not a given that anyone takes notice, and even if they do, a good number of companies will attempt to cover up the cyber attack to avoid penalties and the loss of their customers’ trust.

The future of South African cybersecurity is still uncertain

Cyberattacks in South Africa are a given. But even by being aware of their presence, what’s the best course of action to protect yourself? Apart from expanding your horizons, there are dedicated forums that offer a wealth of knowledge to anyone who’s interested. Cybersecurity specialists often read them to hone their skills, and you can too.

In fact, these forums are the gathering point of many young talented individuals who have recently entered the world of IT. As every piece of knowledge gained can be used either for malevolent or benevolent purposes, they make sure to educate them and steer them towards using their newfound knowledge for good rather than evil. Although stopping all of the hackers is an impossible objective, miracles can be achieved by educating ourselves and protecting our friends.

Funding is the answer

Looking at the rest of the world, cybersecurity initiatives of various kinds are being funded by the government. Rewarding the companies that are actively working towards making the web more secure is a huge step in the right direction. If there is a glimmer of hope that the cybercriminals can be outpaced by cybersecurity professionals, South Africa should follow suit.

Disclaimer:

The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of Woke Owl Pty Ltd.

We welcome all pitches and submissions to Woke Owl Opinion Pieces – please send them via email, to info@wokeowl.co.za

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About Post Author

Daniel Chokoe

My love for technology has earned me the “geek” title, my love for innovation and money has earned me the “businessman” title.
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