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43% of South Africans use one password across accounts

Study reveals South Africans need to take online safety a lot more seriously.



Safer Internet Day, observed around the globe on Tuesday, bypassed most South Africans.

While the day itself is arbitrary – it could be argued that every day should be safer Internet day – a study by YouGov*  released last week shows that awareness campaigns are essential.

Commissioned by Google and conducted online among 1005 internet users, the study shows that 53% of respondents have received phishing emails from people imitating legitimate sources in order to fraudulently gain access to their personal information, including passwords and bank details. A surprisingly

24% of South African internet users admit to having fallen victim to online scams in which they ended up making an upfront payment for a product or service that did not exist.

Surprisingly, despite the fact that more than a quarter (28%) of respondents have had someone gain unauthorised access to their social media and/or email accounts, and that 65% of South Africans are concerned about protecting their financial information (like banking details) online;   few South African internet users actually take advantage of readily-available services and safeguards:

  • 43% of South Africans use the same password for most or all of their online services
  • Only 34% of South Africans use 2-step verification for all their online accounts
  • A total of 11% of South Africans have no recovery phone number or email address for their online accounts
  • 21% of South Africans update their online passwords less frequently than once every 6 months
  • 26% of South Africans never use tools like Google Security Check-Up to review their security settings

“This is concerning”, says Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda who heads up Public Policy and Government Relations at Google South Africa. “This research shows that South Africans are well aware of the dangers that present themselves online, yet so few are proactively using tools available to protect them from online predators.”

Internet safety covers a range of areas that go even beyond this study, such as child safety on the internet and the prevention of internet addiction.

“In 2018, we launched Family Link – software that enables parents to supervise their children’s’ use of the internet,” says Mgwili-Sibanda. “We also launched our Digital Wellbeing app that helps users understand their online habits so that technology can help them rather than hinder them in their daily lives. This Safer Internet Day, we want to encourage South Africans to take their online safety more seriously and educate themselves on the tools available out there, such as the Google Security Check-Up and other free tools such as 2 step verification.”

*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,005 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 27th December 2018 – 10th January 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all South African adults (aged 18+).