Imagine paying up to $600 (around R7800) to get your files released from your laptop or PC?
This is exactly what someone can expect to pay if they find themselves being a victim of “Wanna Cry”, the global cyber attack which has already had devastating effects on businesses around the world.
Seen as one of the largest ransom ware cyber attacks, which locked up more than 200 000 computers in more than 150 countries, European Union law enforcement agency Europol called the attack “unprecedented”.
When a PC or laptop is infiltrated, the only way to unlock the system is to pay the ransom amount to an untraceable bank account.
South Africans are not immune to these attacks, and could fall victim to this internationally run syndicate soon.
According to cyber security expert Dr Aleksandar Valjarevic, head of professional services at LAWtrust, a leading expert on cybersecurity in Africa, the most effective way to prevent cyber attacks would be to update operating systems and ensure that company policies are in place to make employees aware of the risks which are involved.
“Awareness campaigns are crucial and companies must invest in these to make sure their employees are aware of threats and that they are aware and implement company policies in regards to information security,” Valjarevic said.
By updating operating systems and software the damage may be mitigated.
Individuals should not open emails or click on links that are not from trusted sources.
One of the factors that adds to the vulnerability of cyber attacks on South Africans is the high cost of downloading upgrades.
Pieter Erasmus, IT security strategist who works in association with Moyo Business Advisory, says that the high costs of data leaves users to choose between browsing or downloading upgrades.
“I think internet services providers like Mweb, Telkom and Afrihost should come to the party and not count upgrades as part of the data bundle but rather make it a free service,” Erasmus said.
In 2015 the 13th United Nations congress on crime prevention and criminal justice took place in Qatar, where it was revealed that cybercrime affects 431 million adults globally.
Professor Basie von Solms, director of the Centre for Cyber Security in the Academy for Computer Science and Software Engineering at UJ said the exact amount of money that South Africans have been ripped off for is unknown.
“Because we do not have compulsory reporting of such incidents [of cybercrime], and because so many are swept under the carpet and cannot be included in statistics it may actually be more than the two to three billion rand a year figure that is commonly quoted for South Africa,” he said.