Picture: iSTOCK
Picture: iSTOCK

SA is still largely vulnerable to cyber-crime, leaving it open to threats to the country’s critical information infrastructure and socio-economic development, according to a study done by technology research company Comparitech. 

The study looked at 60 countries and found huge variances in a number of categories, from malware rates to cyber-security-related legislation.  

SA was rated 28 out of 60 (with 60 being the best). However, it performed better than China and South Korea — countries regarded as more advanced in terms of science and technology.

“In fact, not one country is top of the class across the board. All the countries we analysed could do with some significant improvements. However, there were some countries that lacked significantly in a variety of areas and others who outperformed the majority of countries,” said Comparitech’s Rebecca Moody.

The SA Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) has previously estimated that South Africans lose more than R2.2bn to internet fraud and phishing attacks annually. 

The study rated Japan as the most cyber-secure country in the world. “It scored incredibly low across the majority of categories, only scoring a little higher in the preparation for cyber-attacks and legislation categories,” said Moody.

Other top-performing countries included France, Canada, Denmark, and the US. Algeria was the worst performer, closely followed by Indonesia and Vietnam.

“As before, some countries scored well in one category but had other scores that brought their average up. These include Ukraine, which had the lowest financial malware rate, and Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka and Algeria, which had the lowest telnet [a user command and underlying protocol for accessing remote computers] attack scores,” said Moody

“Despite some countries having clear strengths and weaknesses, there is definite room for improvement in each and every one. Whether they need to strengthen their legislation or users need help putting better protections in place on their computers and mobiles, there’s still a long way to go to make our countries cyber-secure. Plus, as the landscape of cyber-security constantly changes, crypto-miners are growing in prevalence, for example. Countries need to try and get one step ahead of cyber-criminals,” she said.

In 2015, the government launched a national cyber-security hub as part of efforts to curb cyber-attacks. At the time, the government said the hub would ensure appropriate consultation between the justice, crime prevention and security cluster; government departments; the private sector and civil society.

The hub envisages the government and civil society working together to tackle the growing scourge. It has strengthened relationships with Sabric and the SA National Research Network, which allows it to share threat- and security-related information.

According to the department of communications, the top cyber-security-related threats in SA include ransomware, spam, cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, child pornography, viruses and phishing.