Many individuals and students have had to make the swift shift to online work and learning as the COVID-19 pandemic has led South Africa to instill a nationwide lockdown.

The increase in online activity since the country has been on lockdown has resulted in a larger number of cybercrime such as phishing, hacking and cyberbullying.

Vodacom has noticed a 40% increase in data usage during lockdown, as more day-to-day tasks have also shifted online. As a result, cyber criminals are seizing the opportunity to develop new cyber-related attacks and online activities.

“In view of the global pandemic, cyber attacks are on the rise as we continue to shift to remote working,” Jacob Kutumela, Voadcom’s head of forensic services, said to TimesLIVE. “Cyber criminals are well aware that people are spending more time online and have been targeting them with innovative scams suited to the current environment.”

According to Kutumela, there are also a high number of criminals who are looking to prey on less tech-savvy internet users who are searching for coronavirus news and information.

“Phishing scams can take many forms, including e-mails designed to look like they are from official sources, government authorities or financial institutions,” he said.

Cyber criminals are also targeting victims by posing as charitable organisations looking for donations.

“While fake charity approaches occur all year round, there is a significant increase in these during the times of real disasters or emergencies, such as the current Covid-19 pandemic,” said Kutumela. “Cyber criminals may pose as agents of legitimate well-known charities or create their own charities and request donations for medical research or to support victims and their families.”

A report by Mimecast also found that criminals are targeting those searching for COVID-19-related topics. The email-management company detected more than 115 000 fake coronavirus websites that are made specifically to steal personal information from internet users who are simply looking to keep abreast of the pandemic.

Mimecast’s Q1 report for 2020 revealed that spam has increased 46% during lockdown, while malware has increased 385%. Impersonation crimes have increased by 75%, and unsafe clicks by users has increased by 97%.

Kutumela has advised South Africans not to click on links or open attachments in emails they find suspicious.

“Verify the authenticity of a website before entering sensitive or personal information,” he added.

Picture: Pixabay

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