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SA surfers underestimate cyber vulnerability

Regina Pazvakavambwa
By Regina Pazvakavambwa, ITWeb portals journalist.
Johannesburg, 22 Oct 2015
The costs and unpleasant effects of a malware infection can be avoided with a little prudence, says Kaspersky Lab.
The costs and unpleasant effects of a malware infection can be avoided with a little prudence, says Kaspersky Lab.

Many consumers underestimate how vulnerable they can be online and behave accordingly - they fail to properly protect devices and data from theft or loss.

This is according to a recent study by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International, which notes in South Africa, 57% of Internet users encountered malicious software during the last 12 months, and in most cases this had a negative impact on both users and their devices.

Users (12 355) from 26 countries were surveyed online, including 397 South Africans.

The report says malware was most commonly encountered on Windows computers - with 83% of all Windows users stating they had been affected in the last 12 months.

However, Android and Mac OS X users were not immune, with 13% and 6% citing infections on their devices, respectively.

Some 14% of users believe their device was infected after visiting a suspicious Web site, and 19% stated they become infected because they used someone else's USB flash drive, and 8% believe a malicious app, disguised as a legitimate program, was installed.

Yet another 8% of South Africans surveyed said their devices were infected after opening an e-mail attachment, says Kaspersky Lab. The greater part of those polled, 19%, could not explain how malware ended up on their device, it adds.

According to the report, four out of five infections caused problems for those affected. Most often (46% of cases), users noticed computer performance slowed down, 43% of respondents experienced obtrusive advertising (eg, the browser redirected them to unwanted Web sites), and 32% found unsolicited programs on their devices.

Overall, 33% of local users experienced financial losses as a result of malware infection.

As well as having to pay a ransom to criminals, victims spent money on restoring a device or data, on software to eliminate the effects of an infection, and some even had to buy a replacement device, says Kaspersky Lab.

When financial losses were incurred, the average cost of an attack amounted to R130, it adds.

Elena Kharchenko, head of consumer product management at Kaspersky Lab, says the costs and unpleasant effects of a malware infection can be avoided with a little prudence.

"For instance, do not insert unverified USB sticks in a device, only use official app stores, keep the operating system and applications up to date, and scan files with a security solution before opening them.

"The ability to foresee potential problems and take precautions is the key to staying safe," explains Kharchenko.

According to a Fortinet report, South Africans tend to think they are immune to the mobile threats that affect the developed world, but South Africa actually ranks fifth in the world when it comes to incidents of mobile malware attacks.

Xavier Larduinat, marketing manager for banking solutions at Gemalto, says users often assume they are following security rules and do not pay appropriate attention - not suspecting they are being targeted by fraudsters.

According to research done by GetCybersafe, 156 million fraudulent e-mails are sent every day, with 16 million of these making it through filters. Eight million of these e-mails are opened, says Larduinat.