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VAT meets cyber crooks

We’re heading into the season where government organisations request details on VAT related issues. Unfortunately, cybercriminals know this and are ready to pounce on an obvious weak link – our distracted, emotive human nature, writes MARTIN WALSHAW, Senior Systems Engineer, F5 Networks.

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It is often hard to keep pace with evolving cybercriminal sophistication and sheer volumetric persistence. High net-worth individuals are a particularly attractive target, and their details can command more than credit card details. It only takes a few instances of success for cybercriminals to hit the Dark Web jackpot.

Consider the context surrounding communications

To stay safe and avoid the VAT season becoming a data feeding frenzy, it is vital to rigorously scrutinise inbound communications whether you are a business or an individual.

Organisations typically state that they never use text or email to communicate information on rebates or penalties, nor request personal or payment information. Alarm bells need to go off at any such request, and the relevant experts and authorities must be informed to determine the source of an attempted attack, as well as initiate relevant mitigation actions.

Get protected

You can have best processes, systems, and intentions in place but there is still no legislating for impulsiveness. Critical thinking often disappears if there is vulnerable big data, which can be sold for big dollars.

In recent years, there’s been an explosion of attractively designed fake apps offering free services, which conceal all manner of maliciousness behind the scenes. It is also relatively quick to replicate an authentic tax-related app and weaponise it for credentials theft. At a glance, it can be impossible to determine fakery from a genuine tax imperative. We are all busy and highly connected. We naturally gravitate towards convenience, and the bad actors have scrutinised our psychological profiles and mastered replicating our identities.

Education and awareness programmes are essential in a business environment to protect employees both in the office and at home. These need to be specific and tailored to the actual problems, including explicit procedural antidotes to basic human fickleness.

A culture needs to be created for staff to practice secure thinking every day, including continually updating security settings (using automation tools to ensure no employee is left behind), regularly changing passwords, and ensuring attachments or links are treated with caution.

The latter is particularly important. According to F5 Labs research, phishing is still the top method to illegally obtain data. Free tools like VirusTotal can help in this instance, allowing users to upload files for scanning via hundreds of anti-virus solutions to check if it contains harmful content.

To stay ahead of the hacker, it is also important for businesses to run regular penetration tests to gauge staff responses to potential cybersecurity pitfalls and identify specific areas for improvement.

All awareness-raising actions need to be supported by advanced and integrated security solutions, including robust web application firewalls (WAF), analytical tools to understand threat behaviour, and encryption tools. The challenge of responsible data management is already intensifying across EMEA, particularly with the emergence of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). There is no margin for error.

Filing returns and dealing with the relevant bodies can be complex enough without having to deal with identity theft and fraud concerns. Don’t make it easy for the cybercriminals.

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Now download a bank account

Absa has introduced an end-to-end account opening for new customers, through the Absa Banking App, which can be downloaded from the Android and Apple app stores. This follows the launch of the world first ChatBanking on WhatsApp service.

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This “download your account” feature enables new customers to Absa, to open a Cheque account, order their card and start transacting on the Absa Banking App, all within minutes, from anywhere and at any time, by downloading it from the App stores.

“Overall, this new capability is not only expected to enhance the customer’s digital experience, but we expect to leverage this in our branches, bringing digital experiences to the branch environment and making it easier for our customers to join and bank with us regardless of where they may be,” says Aupa Monyatsi, Managing Executive for Virtual Channels at Absa Retail & Business Banking.

“With this innovation comes the need to ensure that the security of our customers is at the heart of our digital experience, this is why the digital onboarding experience for this feature includes a high-quality facial matching check with the Department of Home Affairs to verify the customer’s identity, ensuring that we have the most up to date information of our clients. Security is supremely important for us.”

The new version of the Absa Banking App is now available in the Apple and Android App stores, and anyone with a South African ID can become an Absa customer, by following these simple steps:

  1. Download the Absa App
  2. Choose the account you would like to open
  3. Tell us who you are
  4. To keep you safe, we will verify your cell phone number
  5. Take a selfie, and we will do facial matching with the Department of Home Affairs to confirm you are who you say you are
  6. Tell us where you live
  7. Let us know what you do for a living and your income
  8. Click Apply.

 

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How we use phones to avoid human contact

A recent study by Kaspersky Lab has found that 75% of people pick up their connected device to avoid conversing with another human being.

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Connected devices are becoming essential to keeping people in contact with each other, but for many they are also a much-needed comfort blanket in a variety of social situations when they do not want to interact with others. A recent survey from Kaspersky Lab has confirmed this trend in behaviour after three-quarters of people (75%) admitted they use a device to pretend to be busy when they don’t want to talk to someone else, showing the importance of keeping connected devices protected under all circumstances. 

Imagine you’ve arrived at a bar and you’re waiting for your date. The bar is busy, and people are chatting all around you. What do you do now? Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know? Grab your phone from your pocket or handbag until your date arrives to keep yourself busy? Why talk to humans or even make eye-contact with someone else when you can stare at your connected device instead?

The truth is, our use of devices is making it much easier to avoid small talk or even be polite to those around us, and new Kaspersky Lab research has found that 72% of people use one when they do not know what to do in a social situation. They are also the ‘go-to’ distraction for people even when they aren’t trying to look busy or avoid someone’s eye. 46% of people admit to using a device just to kill time every day and 44% use it as a daily distraction.

In addition to just being a distraction, devices are also a lifeline to those who would rather not talk directly to another person in day-to-day situations, to complete essential tasks. In fact, nearly a third (31%) of people would prefer to carry out tasks such as ordering a taxi or finding directions to where they need to go via a website and an app, because they find it an easier experience than speaking with another person.

Whether they are helping us avoid direct contact or filling a void in our daily lives, our constant reliance on devices has become a cause for panic when they become unusable. A third (34%) of people worry that they will not be able to entertain themselves if they cannot access a connected device. 12% are even concerned that they won’t be able to pretend to be busy if their device is out of action.

Dmitry Aleshin, VP for Product Marketing, Kaspersky Lab said, “The reliance on connected devices is impacting us in more ways than we could have ever expected. There is no doubt that being connected gives us the freedom to make modern life easier, but devices are also vital to help people get through different and difficult social situations. No matter what your ‘connection crutch’ is, it is essential to make sure your device is online and available when you need it most.”

To ensure your device lifeline is always there and in top health – no matter what the reason or situation – Kaspersky Security Cloud keeps your connection safe and secure:

·         I want to use my device while waiting for a friend – is it secure to access the bar’s Wi-Fi?

With Kaspersky Security Cloud, devices are protected against network threats, even if the user needs to use insecure public Wi-Fi hotspots. This is done through transferring data via an encrypted channel to ensure personal data safety, so users’ devices are protected on any connection.

·         Oh no! I’m bored but my phone’s battery is getting low – what am I going to do?

Users can track their battery level thanks to a countdown of how many minutes are left until their device shuts down in the Kaspersky Security Cloud interface. There is also a wide-range of portable power supplies available to keep device batteries charged while on-the-go.

·         I’ve lost my phone! How will I keep myself entertained now?

Should the unthinkable happen and you lose or have your phone stolen, Kaspersky Security Cloud can track and protect your device from data breaches, for complete peace of mind. Remote lock and locate features ensure your device remains secure until you are reunited.

 

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