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SA needs national cyber crime campaign

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Cyber criminology for financial gain continues to be an escalating global trend but education and being proactive will go a long way to beating the cyber criminals, says GRAHAM CROOCK, Director, IT Audit, Risk and Cyber Lab BDO.

Cyber crime for financial gain continues to be an escalating global trend but education, being prepared and proactive will go a long way to beating the cyber criminals. In the context of the African continent, South Africa has emerged as the preferred destination for cybercrime, worldwide, due to two reasons.

The past 20 years has seen rapid growth in information-based technology infrastructure. We use a lot of optic fibre and we have big data warehouses and storage facilities. Our banks are on par with or ahead of the European and American banks in this regard.

The advanced infrastructure makes South Africa a hotspot for cybercrime activities. What further aids the criminal activity is that as a country, we are capable of formulating and promulgating laws, however we are weak at policing them.

The scourge of cybercrime in our country is escalating at an alarming rate. One of the few solutions to combatting this lies formulating crowd-sourced solutions, which can form the basis of preventing future attacks and shutting the door on cyber criminology.

South Africans are less informed about cybercrime than we should be, however, research also indicates a steady surge towards a more proactive attitude towards prevention.

Education and preparedness play pivotal roles in this proactive approach. A key focus in educating users is overcoming the misconception that cybercriminals are merely felons who perpetuate their attacks from dark, isolated locations. The fact is that cyberattacks can be carried out from the very same office location that is being targeted. All cybercriminals require is a computer and an internet connection.

Education means teaching users how to respond to cyberattacks. Users must know who to call, what to shut down and when to switch off their hardware in the event of an attack. These actions must be the critical focus of every training and this should be integrated with response teams.

Training is now also become available online, making it more accessible, so, companies need to budget and invest in these training platforms.

Over and above education and training, legislation is integral in combatting cybercrime and protecting companies from its consequences. Unfortunately, in the current context, the legislation that exists has proven inadequate in protecting companies from the consequences of cybercrime.

There are currently four pieces of legislation that are earmarked to protect us from cybercrime:

·         National Cybersecurity Policy Framework

·         Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill

·         The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (25 of 2002)

o    Cyber Inspectors

o    Cyber Crime

·         Protection of Personal Information Act (4 of 2013)

POPI (Protection of Personal Information), which has not yet been passed by parliament, however, is imminent and will be key in providing defensive merits over personal information.

However, a key facet of legislation is ensuring that legislation stays abreast of the technology development that continues rapidly — a challenge for every government in the world.

The complexities which arise encompass the strategic alignment of how legislation is modified and reformed to better protect users. Key to this approach is also the rate of legislation being passed into law, something which continues to stifle the progression of effectively combatting cybercrime.

If we are going to efficiently fight cybercrime, we cannot have a one-dimensional perspective. We need to observe the general persuasive crime and corruption that is prevalent in the market, because before a criminal can become an effective cybercriminal they need to be good social engineers capable of manipulating people and extracting information from them. This is inevitably where cybercrime links to bribery and corruption.

The very essence of how these attacks are often launched and perpetuated emphasises the need for stringent methods of regulation, monitoring and recovery processes, to learn from these cyberattacks and close the loop, ensuring that we do not become susceptible to them again. Therefore, as complex as it is to regulate cybercriminal activity, common law principles also have a role in how we deal with cybercrimes.

South Africa also plays an integral part in the economic growth of the continent, thus making it a lucrative economic hotspot for cybercriminal activity. This inevitably means that out of all the African countries, we have the most malicious IP activity.

The infrastructure and our economy means that South Africa is also a prime location to tunnel and launch attacks to other parts of the world as well — an activity which further delves into the complexities of cyberattacks.

Effective education and training platforms, coupled with the proactive attitude towards ensuring necessary precautions and positive attitudes towards cybercrime will be the impetus for us to overcome this scourge.

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Small South African town goes smartphone-only

Vodacom partners with farming business to upgrade all residents of Wakkerstroom from 2G devices to smartphones

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All residents of the small town of Wakkerstroom, which straddles Mpumalanga and kwaZulu-Natal provinces, have had their 2G feature phones upgraded to 3G devices.

The initiative is a result of Vodacom partnering with BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs the majority of the people living in Wakkerstroom. It is now the first smartphone-only town in South Africa. This is a model the network provider says it hopes to replicate across the country as part of its mission to connect people who live in deep rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks.

Wakkerstroom, is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province, on the KwaZulu-Natal border, 27 km east of Volksrust and 56 km south-east of Amersfoort.  

“There are growing expectations for big corporates the size of Vodacom to serve a social purpose, and for us to use our resources and core capabilities to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of ordinary people,” says Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga. “We are helping to remove communication barriers, so that citizens in the area can be part of the digital revolution and reap the associated benefits. By moving the more than 1400 farm workers from 2G to 3G devices, this will also free much needed spectrum and this spectrum can be re-farmed to provide for faster networks such as 3G and 4G.

“Crucially, the move opens a new world of connectivity for farm workers in Wakkerstroom. As a result, most people in the area will now be able to use the Vodacom network to connect on the net and access online government services, eHealth services such as Mum&Baby and eCommerce. Learners can now surf the internet for the first time and access Vodacom’s eSchool free of charge and those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones and tablets to apply for jobs over the internet on Vodacom’s zero-rated career sites. This will be key for driving growth to the benefit of people living in this area.”

Vodacom has already deployed 4G base stations in Wakkestroom as part of this initiative.

For the next phase of this project, says Vodacom, it is going to educate the farm workers about data and the benefits of the Internet. Vodacom will also look at various ways in which it can help empower members of this community in areas of education, gender-based violence and health.

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10 more African countries join Facebook fact-checking

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Facebook today announced the expansion of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme to 10 additional African countries, which now join  Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Senegal in the project,

In partnership with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the France 24 Observers, Pesa Check and Dubawa, this programme forms part of its work in helping assess the accuracy and quality of news people find on Facebook, whilst reducing the spread of misinformation on its platform.

Working with a network of fact-checking organizations, certified by the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, third-party fact-checking will now be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso through AFP, Uganda and Tanzania through both Pesa Check and AFP, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire through the France 24 Observers and AFP, Guinea Conakry through the France 24 Observers, and Ghana through Dubawa.

Feedback from the Facebook community is one of many signals Facebook uses to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review. Local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos. If one of our fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.

Kojo Boakye, Facebook Head of Public Policy, Africa, said: “The expansion of third-party fact-checking to now cover 15 countries in a little over a year shows firsthand our commitment and dedication to the continent, alongside our recent local language expansion as part of this programme. Taking steps to help tackle false news on Facebook is a responsibility we take seriously, we know misinformation is a problem, and these are important steps in continuing to address this issue. We know that third-party fact-checking alone is not the solution, it is one of many initiatives and programmes we are investing in to help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook. While we’ve made great progress, we will keep investing to ensure Facebook remains a place for all ideas, but not for the spread of false news.”

When third-party fact-checkers fact-check a news story, Facebook will show these in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. Page Admins and people on Facebook will also receive notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been determined to be false, empowering people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share.

Providing fact-checking in English and French across eight countries, Phil Chetwynd, AFP Global News Director said: “AFP is delighted to be expanding its fact-checking project with Facebook. We are known for the high quality of our journalism from across Africa and we will be leveraging our unparalleled network of bureaus and journalists on the continent to combat misinformation.”

Eric Mugendi, Managing Editor from Pesa Check who will provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English added: “Social networks like Facebook haven’t just changed how Africans consume the news. Social media is often the primary access to digital content or the ‘Internet’ for many Africans. They shape our perceptions of the world, our public discourse, and how we interact with public figures. This project helps us dramatically expand our fact-checking to debunk claims that could otherwise cause real-world harm. The project helps us respond more quickly and directly. We’re seeing real positive results in our interactions with both publishers and the public itself. The project also helps our fact-checks reach a far larger audience than we would otherwise. This has helped us better understand the information vacuum and other viral dynamics that drive the spread of false information in Africa. Our growing impact is a small but tangible contribution to better informed societies in Africa.”

Caroline Anipah, Programme Officer, Dubawa (Ghana) said: “Dubawa is excited to be in Ghana where the misinformation and disinformation have become widespread as a result of technological advancement and increasing internet penetration. Dubawa intends to raise the quality of information available to the public with the ultimate aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation and promoting good governance and accountability.”

Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief of the France 24 Observers, said: “Our African users are constantly sending us questionable images and messages they’ve received via social media, asking us ‘Is this true? Can you check it?’ It’s our responsibility as fact-checking journalists to verify the information that’s circulating, and get the truth back out there. Participating in the Facebook programme helps ensure that our fact-checks are reaching the people who shared the false news in the first place.”

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