According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC), South Africa is losing more than R1 billion each year to cybercrime.

SABRIC reports that cybercrime has increased by almost 30% since 2013.

Many of today’s cybercrimes fool customers into divulging their online banking details by sending customers emails with links that encourage them to click on bank websites that appear legitimate.

What is spyware?

Spyware is a type of malicious software that can infect computers and collect pieces of information about the computers’ users without their knowledge. The spyware typically collects personal information that you may enter into a website, but can also retrieve sensitive files that you may have saved on your computer.

The information that the spyware gathers is then used to log into your bank accounts and defraud you, or to make fraudulent online purchases. Depending on the circumstances surrounding such cases, the customer could be considered legally liable for such losses, as the customer had taken insufficient protective measures.

How does spyware get downloaded onto my computer?

On shared computers — such as those in internet cafés — it is fairly easy for someone to install spyware software. On your home computer, spyware is most often sent via email. Within this email, perpetrators will include an attachment or link to a file that will automatically install the spyware onto your computer when clicked, and will then send the information captured to the fraudster when you access your bank accounts. Also be aware of browsing or downloading information from websites of doubtful origins and infected portable storage devices such as memory sticks or portable hard drives that may contain spyware or viruses.

Latest spyware tactics

The latest spyware attack that fraudsters are using is also via email. The only difference is that the executable file is included as an attachment that says “Proof of Payment,” and has cleverly been disguised as a pdf. This latest spyware is very advanced and is difficult for many virus protection programmes to detect.

How do I avoid becoming a victim of spyware?

Ensure that you have the latest up-to-date antivirus software installed. If you receive a suspicious-looking email that you suspect may be an online fraud or phishing attempt, do not click on any of the links, or open any attachments, included in the email.

Avoid online fraud attempts

Many of us use the internet on a daily basis, for anything from shopping for groceries and gadgets to auctions and online banking. Although most of our online interactions are secure, there is always a risk that we could open ourselves up to online fraud attempts, such as identity theft. Be cautious about what personal information you share online, including address details, cellphone numbers and photographs.

 Absa suggests the following measures to improve online security

It is vital that you are aware of some measures that you can take to make your online banking more secure:

  • Always keep your personal access information secure, and change your PIN and passwords regularly.
  • Only click on links or attachments on emails if you are sure of their source.
  • Be aware of the risk of infected storage devices (such as memory sticks), which may contain a virus or spyware.
  • Always browse trusted websites, and only download from sites that you are sure are safe.
  • Be aware that phishing scams have also been received through instant messaging systems such as GoogleTalk or Skype, as well as through social networking websites such as Facebook. When in doubt about the authenticity of a link or a claim, simply don’t click on it.
  • Install good-quality security software, and ensure that you have updated to the latest version of your browser.
  • Don’t bank or shop online when using a public terminal such as those found in internet cafés, hotels, coffee shops or student labs.
  • Before you bank online, ensure that you are actually within the secure internet banking website. Check the browser address, it should begin with ‘https.’ Also check the browser for a closed lock and/or key icon, which should either be at the top or the bottom of the screen.
  • When leaving your computer, always end the current session by closing your browser window. Never leave your computer unattended during an online banking session.