The recent cyber-attack on Transnet is a serious wakeup call and a reminder that, in the technology age, no company is safe from cyber criminals who are trying to disrupt operations or steal personal information.
While Transnet was dealing with its cyberattack, Macsteel – one of South Africa’s largest steel suppliers – faced a similar cyberattack on its system. At the end of June, there was a major data leak that impacted one of South Africa’s major insurers.
“These coordinated attacks by cyber criminals are indicative of the environment that we live in at the moment,” says Manie van Schalkwyk, CEO of the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS). He adds that these criminals are motivated, well-funded, and do not care who they go after.
Risk based environment
The cyber attack on Transnet impacted the company so significant that the company had to temporarily halt all operations at its ports in Durban, Ngqura, Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) and Cape Town. Macsteel reported soon after the attack that no personal information was stolen from the company and that its operations returned to normal soon after the attack.
Transnet and Macsteel are not the only companies that have been compromised by cyber-criminals this year. At the end of June, QSure, a big player in South Africa’s insurance industry, was hit by a data breach in which bank account numbers and other sensitive information were compromised by a third party. The company would not confirm how many records were exposed through the breach.
QSure is a registered financial services provider and one of the collection agencies that provides collection and premium handling services for the South Africa insurance industry. Its clients include big insurance companies and insurance brokers.
Following the data breach, one of South Africa’s largest short-term insurers issued a statement to clients warning them to be suspicious of to be cautious of phone calls, e-mails or SMS’ that ask for personal information. the insurer advised its clients not to disclose this information, especially pins and passwords.
With the world spending most of 2020 in lockdown trying to deal with the impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic, there were very few opportunities for criminals and fraudsters to operate in the way that they used to. With consumerism moving online, so has the criminal enterprise.
“Today, cybercriminals may go after a large corporate to try and disrupt their services or steal money from them. Tomorrow, they may go after a bank or a financial services provider – like an insurer – to target personal information. The question we need to ask is, are South African financial institutions prepared for a massive cyber-attack similar to that suffered by Transnet where the operations of the entire company was put on hold?” asks Van Schalkwyk. He adds that the world is no longer dealing with traditional white-collar and blue-collar crimes, we are dealing with cybercrime which is a lot harder to stop and more importantly, prosecute.
“This is why early prevention, and necessary protection, is so important in the current environment. The SAFPS is a key role player in the industry and has an array of products which offers key protection,” says Van Schalkwyk adding that identity theft is a major concern in the current environment.
One of the most important services, and the core of SAFPS’ service offering, is Protective Registration. Protective Registration is a free service protecting individuals against future fraud. Consumers apply for this service and the SAFPS alerts its members to take additional care when dealing with that individual’s details.
Protective Registration provides an added layer of protection and peace of mind regardless of whether the identity of the applicant has been compromised.
“If a member of the public wants to become proactive in the fight against fraud, the SAFPS is there to serve them. Visit our website on www.safps.org.za. Click on the fraud prevention tab and protect yourself against identity theft with Protective Registration. For best results, use your smart phone to go to our website. Once you have uploaded key pieces of information, you will add another layer of protection against potential ID fraud,” says Van Schalkwyk.
Victim Fraud Registration
Through Fraud Victim Registration, the SAFPS will assist applicants in preventing fraud that is a result of identity theft and impersonation.
This will protect applicants from associated financial implications. The SAFPS will issue applicants with a Victim of Impersonation Letter which they can share with future credit providers to assist in any verification processes.
Consumers are urged to visit the SAFPS website on www.safps.org.za, and click on protect your identity. It is recommended that a smart phone is used in this process and that the applicant has a copy of their ID with them. Alternatively, applicants can follow the manual process explained on the website. This is a free service.