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John Oliver covers cybercrime, maybe now we’ll take it seriously

Since joining Hypertext a few years ago, one aspect of technology has constantly been on the up and up – cybercrime.

However, in 2020 the rate of cyber attacks increased to an unprecedented level. Between January and April 2020 Interpol reported that 907 000 spam messages, 737 malware incidents and 48 000 malicious URLs were detected by its partners.

We are bringing up the rather wide topic of cybersecurity today because everybody’s favourite bird person John Oliver covered the topic during Last Week Tonight. You can watch the segment via the embed below.

The segment contains many things that might be shocking to those who are of the opinion that they will never encounter a cybercriminal.

For instance, at the 11:34 mark in the video, Thomas Pace, co-founder and chief executive officer of NetRise, shows just how easily a ransomware attack can be executed and how little technical skill it takes. And that should be mighty concerning to everybody.

In July a cyberattack was executed against Transnet. Despite Transnet having lifted the force majeure it declared, Transnet hasn’t said what the attack was, how it rectified the matter or how it intends to prevent an attack like this from happening again.

The off-handed nature with which government and private companies treat cyber breaches is incredibly concerning to us. To this day we don’t know how bad the hacks on Liberty and Momentum were and what user data was compromised. The hack of a database that contained the personal data of some 30 million South Africans a few years ago was out of the public conversation nearly the same day it was reported on.

What is government doing about cybercrime in South Africa?

The Cybercrimes Act was signed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in May of this year but it is not currently in effect and won’t be until it is proclaimed to be in the Government Gazette.

Unfortunately, as law firm Michalsons points out, the bill is largely a bad one for individuals.

“The Cybercrimes Act will have a significant impact on many organisations and individuals. Unfortunately, the impact is mostly negative and a bit scary. Correctional services are going to have to build more prisons to lock up everyone who commits a cybercrime. Few people will actually go to jail because we don’t have enough skilled people to enforce these laws, but you better start saving money to pay fines,” writes Michalsons.

We urge you to read more about how this act affects you here.

South Africa does have a Computer Security Incident Response Team but the web portal for that team doesn’t exactly inspire hope when the news feed draws from one website and the “Recent Vulnerabilities” section was last updated in March 2020 using content from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the US.

Quite frankly, you should be guarding your data as carefully as possible as it seems that as South Africans we are very much alone in that regard.

As such we urge you to take Oliver’s advice. Use multi-factor authentication where ever it is available. Update your laptop, desktop, tablets, smartwatches, TVs, IoT systems and other electronics that connect to the internet as often as possible.

We also recommend using a reputable password management service and securing it with a strong, unique master password that you update often.

Cybercrime is not going away and every single person that uses the internet is vulnerable even those who you might not think are. Hopefully Last Week Tonight’s segment hammers that point home.

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