SA ‘ripe for cyber attacks’

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A prominent cyber-security expert has warned that South Africa was “years behind” other countries regarding legislation regulating cyberspace while also calling banks that urge their customers to bank online “unethical”.

Rossouw von Solms, who teaches information and communication technology at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, was speaking in the wake of massive, international ransomware attacks that took place over the weekend and earlier this week.

While South Africa was not affected as severely as most countries, Von Solms warned that the country remains ripe for attacks, due to structural deficiencies and “human error”.

“Up to 80% of the things that go wrong is due to human error,” he said. “I cannot drive in the traffic today if my car is not road-ready. If your computer is not road-ready, you are looking for problems.”

Von Solms called out banks for pushing customers towards online banking, especially those who may not fully understand the risks of operating online.

“To make an 80-year-old lady suddenly have to use online and tell her it’s more convenient and better is wrong because she maybe doesn’t know the technical requirements to do online banking,” he said. “She is an ideal target to lose money.

“I’ve told banks: ‘You have the same ethical stance as a motor vehicle salesman selling to an 18-year-old with a learner’s licence.’ You know they are going to make an accident.”

While the Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Bill is currently before parliament, Von Solms said the bill likely would have had little effect in halting the attacks over the weekend and is legislation many other countries have already passed.

“We are still waiting for cyber inspectors from seven years ago,” he said.

“We are still waiting for cyber inspectors from seven years ago,” he said.

He said the most important thing people should do to protect themselves is to make sure they are aware and educated.

“Drivers wear safety belts and don’t go through red lights. It’s the same on cyberspace. You should act in a manner that secures yourself,” he said.

Von Solms also told users to make sure they have the latest security systems on their computers and to make sure the computer is set to download the updates automatically.

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