Late yesterday most South Africans were concerned to hear the news that a data breach consisting of information from nearly 24 million citizens and 800 000 businesses were compromised following a major blunder at consumer credit aggregating firm Experian.

While those at the firm are scrambling to decipher whether the data that was socially engineered and compromised can be used for any nefarious means, it serves as another example for South Africans to ensure that they have the correct cybersecurity measures in place.

Yes, Experian is at fault here, but it is always a wise idea to have your own measures in place. This as most financial institutions have advised that stricter protocols are being put in place in the wake of this data breach.

To that end, cybersecurity specialists Kaspersky have offered up some sage advice for consumers wanting to take proactive steps, and potentially ensure that they are not caught off guard by such an event.

“With all of this personal data being exposed, it is a safe bet that scammers will look to use this information to their benefit. We urge all users who think they might have been affected to stay vigilant and careful online. When reading emails, social media posts, or even getting SMS, make sure that the sender is who they say they are and keep an eye out for phishing emails,” points out Maher Yamout, senior security researcher at Kaspersky.

“We also advise users to change their passwords and never use the same password for multiple accounts because if one account is jeopardised, criminals might gain access to your other accounts,” he adds.

As for what consumers can do in the interim, Yamout has advised the following five steps:

  • Monitor banking accounts – This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you see transactions that you do not recognise, contact your bank to query it.
  • Enable SMS alerts – If you want to make sure that you’re up to the minute with your banking, set up SMS alerts when transactions are made.
  • Sign up for an identity theft monitoring service – There are countless services out there that can help secure your online and real world identity. This type of service could be useful if you are impacted or are afraid that you may have been.
  • Be vigilant online – Be careful with sharing your information online and stay alert for any email or message you receive.
  • Be aware of social engineering – If you are a business, this is one of the most common attack vectors nowadays.

“Lastly, affected users should assess the type of personal information leaked and try to replace it whenever possible to avoid potential risks (for example, if passport copy is leaked, try to replace it with a new one),” Yamout concludes.

With it being reported that the Experian data breach happened far earlier in May, and has only been disclosed now, it is clear that COVID-19 and lockdown has meant hackers and cybercriminals are intensifying their efforts.

As such, consumers need to be proactive.

[Image – Photo by Chris Mok || @cr.mok on Unsplash]