Picture: 123RF/WELCOMIA
Picture: 123RF/WELCOMIA

In this edition of Business Day Spotlight, we are looking at the effects of the recent Experian cyberattack on financial services and the economy.

Host Mudiwa Gavaza is joined by FNB executive Dr Christoph Nieuwoudt to discuss the issues.

Join the conversation:  

As more South Africans work from home, shop online and the economy shifts to digital channels, the threat of cyberattacks has become a growing reality.

FNB, Standard Bank and African Bank warned their customers this week to be vigilant after it was found that some clients are among victims of a data breach at one of the world’s top credit bureaus, Experian.

The hack exposed some personal information of as many as 24-million South Africans and almost 800,000 businesses, the SA Banking Risk Centre (Sabric), a nonprofit organisation set up by major lenders to combat bank-related organised crime, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Business Day Spotlight host Mudiwa Gavaza. Picture: DOROTHY KGOSI.
Business Day Spotlight host Mudiwa Gavaza. Picture: DOROTHY KGOSI.

SA has the third-highest number of cybercrime victims in the world with about R2.2bn lost each year through fraudulent activities carried via the internet, according to professional services company Accenture.

The research suggests that threat actors perceive SA organisations and businesses as potentially having lower defensive barriers compared to those in more developed economies, and that they may enjoy a lower risk of incurring consequences for their malicious activity.

Nieuwoudt says on the retail side, what was shared was contact information of customers only. “This is not banking data. It’s not financial information either,” he said, explaining that it was mainly e-mails, addresses and phone numbers.

The hack is said to have exposed information of almost 800,000 businesses. Nieuwoudt says according to their analysis, together with Sabric, “the number of businesses that had information that was compromised is significantly less than that ... but it is a wider set of information” going beyond just contact details.

“Why are we making such a big thing of this? Really, it’s because this information can be used to commit crime. So the contact information can be used by criminals to pretend that they are you or they can send you phishing attacks that actually solicit further information from you to launch an attack on you.”

The discussion also touches on the risks and rewards of operating in a digital economy, with Nieuwoudt saying digital banking has actually closed the loop on a number of crimes such as cheque fraud and theft of physical cash.

Cyberattacks can vary in terms of severity but repetitional damage remains the biggest risk for companies that don’t have the right security measures, he says, adding that being transparent with customers is probably one of the best ways to ease anxiety.

Nieuwoudt also talks about the security measures that FNB has in place for its online banking, issues around educating the public and changing customer behaviour and some of the good that technology platforms have brought during the Covid-19 crisis.

For more episodes, click here.

Engage on Twitter at #BDSpotlight

Subscribe: iono.fm Spotify | Apple Podcasts | Pocket Casts | Player.fm

 Business Day Spotlight is a MultimediaLIVE production.

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.