‘Be careful what you share online’

8 October 2012

With October being International Cyber Security Awareness Month, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has warned South Africans to be responsible with the information they share on internet, especially on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.

The Cyber Defence Research Group of the CSIR will be hosting a series of talks on cyber security awareness-related topics this month. The talks will include practical cyber security awareness tips, tricks and policies; mobile phone hacking, cyber terrorism and information warfare; live fire exercises; and social networking and social media.

“Sharing personal information online about ourselves and those around us has become second nature, to the extent that we are not aware when we actually do it,” CSIR researcher Zama Dlamini said in a statement last week.

“Our children, friends, partners, helpers and even colleagues have inadvertently posted pictures online; whether it is a picture of you at a team-building exercise, or a picture of your new car showing its registration number outside your house, which might also happen to have the address in bold. All this information can be used against you by cyber criminals.”

Information that is regarded as private include – but is not limited to – bank and credit card numbers, income, ID number, full names, street address, phone numbers, e-mail address, names and addresses of children’s schools, and photos.

Dlamini warned that this type of private information should not be shared with strangers nor made available online, as it can be easily accessed by cyber criminals.

“This is the information that is often required to legitimately open new charge accounts, buy online or borrow money,” Dlamini said.

“If cyber criminals were to get hold of it, they could use it to open accounts, buy online, and borrow money while pretending to be you. They can even marry you off to a stranger without your knowledge or consent.

“Victims usually do not know that they have been victimised until collection agencies begin pursuing them to cover debts they did not even know they had.”

According to Sipho Ngobeni, also a CSIR Researcher, there are many other tricks, like hacking, that cyber criminals can use to get people’s personal information.

“Once they have achieved this, they could perform malicious activities such as infecting your computer with malware, which in turn can lead to your computer being used as a botnet (internet-connected computers with breached security defences that are controlled by a ‘botmaster’); steal confidential information that resides on your computer and perhaps sell it to the black market, and use your computer to launch further criminal activities,” Ngobeni said.

The internet has no boundary; and therefore it is important that technology users are made aware of what could go wrong, as well as tips and tricks to protect themselves while online, Ngobeni added.

SAinfo reporter