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By 23 September 2013 | Categories: feature articles

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We’ve been hearing for quite some time about the very real threat of cybercrime globally, and South Africa is certainly not exempt from this threat.

Exacerbating this is the fact that the primary motivation for cybercrime has become financially orientated, according to Symantec. Even more worrying is that this type of crime is no longer mainly perpetrated by lone hackers sitting in a bedroom somewhere; rather it has become the domain of sophisticated criminal groups and large crime syndicates, who go after millions, if not billions of rands. Below are three cybercrimes committed in South Africa of late, which only underscore the seriousness of the situation.

1. 15 million reasons to beware

One of the more recent cybercrimes saw a syndicate comprising of 54 individuals hauled into court last month, on charges of fraud, money laundering, racketeering and theft.

The group had apparently been running an extensive phishing scam to gain access to people’s banking details, while also utilising SIM swaps and identity theft to rob its victims. The syndicate subsequently opened fake store accounts using the information, and also used cloned identities to access credit facilities. On one occasion they managed to siphon off almost R7 million from 21 accounts in a mere 24 hours. On a separate occasion, 30 accounts were compromised to the tune of an additional R3.1 million.

2. Going postal gets a new meaning

One of the largest and most audacious cybercrimes committed locally, involved a whopping R42 million stolen from the Post Bank. The theft was committed at the beginning of last year by a syndicate with inside knowledge of the Post Office’s IT system, and culminated in three of the perpetrators being arrested (two of which worked for the Post Office).

Those involved apparently opened up numerous Postbank accounts throughout South Africa towards the end of 2011. They then took advantage of the holiday season to access another Post Office employee’s computer and deposit money from legitimate accounts into these newly created ones, all while dramatically increasing the limits on the accounts. The thieves then treated ATM’s across the country like slot machines, to withdraw their ill gotten gains.

3. Security? Don’t bank on it

It may be the oldest cybercrime trick in the book, but it doesn’t mean people don’t still fall for it. According to the ombudsman for banking services, Clive Pillay, one client was conned out of R165 000 by way of an email informing him that he had won an international lottery and he needed to pay ‘administration fees’ to collect his winnings.

Sadly, he did not recognize this as a scam, but instead paid R126 000 into the account held by one bank, and an additional R39 000 into that of another bank. Not only were the ‘winnings’ non-existent, but the ridiculously exorbitant administration fees proved to be an expensive lesson indeed.

To the point

While each of these cybercrimes used different techniques, the once common factor is that all were financially motivated, and together they illustrate firmly that cybercrime absolutely does happen, and can happen, to anyone.

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