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'South Africans sharing too much personal information online'

Jun 11, 2018
'South Africans sharing too much personal information online'

Cybersecurity experts say South Africans are sharing too much of their personal information on social media, allowing cybercriminals to exploit them for their personal gain. 

Cybersecurity experts from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have urged the public to be mindful of what they post on social media and to carefully check the permission lists when they download applications (apps). 

CSIR researchers -- Dr Vukosi Marivate, Muyowa Mutemwa, Nyalleng Moorosi and Thulani Mashiane -- showcased their research in social mining data, network vulnerability, data science for public safety and cybersecurity awareness at a media briefing in Tshwane on Monday. 

The researchers said allowing apps more access on your phone than required could lead to security risks and expose personal information. 

Other apps require access to your exact location, revealing details such as your house number, workplace and email account details. 

Some people post pictures of their vehicles with a number plate clearly visible, making it easier for criminals to clone the registration number. 

“Be vigilant when you share information on social media,” said Mashiane. 

He cautioned South Africans to stay away from installing suspicious applications, saying they should only download applications from original/reputable website or applications store such the play store and app store. 

“Don’t over share. Think before you click. Personal information can be used to answer security questions for certain accounts, identity theft, direct marketing and by stalkers. 

“Cybercriminals are also targeting kids through games,” said Mashiane, urging parents to check every game their children play. 

Mashiane cited the game called Blue Whale, which targets mainly vulnerable teenagers by assigning them to do tasks set out, with the final challenge asking the player to commit suicide. 

“Parents please check what kids are doing on their phones. Many teenagers are killing themselves because of these games. 

“In this game, participants are expected to share photos of the challenges completed by them. This includes cutting themselves, killing animals and eventually killing themselves,” she said.

Watch your money 

Speaking on network vulnerability, researcher Muyowa Mutemwa warned South Africans on using public and open networks for banking transactions. 

“Cybercriminals love public open networks such as internet café networks, coffee shop Wi-Fi and conference Wi-Fi. Use secure network for banking - no banking or social networking on public Wi-Fi,” he said. 

South Africans are also looking into crypto-currencies investments that promise high returns.

“It is important to note quick returns are not a solution because we have seen millions of dollars lost when these schemes collapses,” said Mutemwa. 

Senior data scientist, Dr Vukosi Marivate, conducted a study on social media mining safety. He leads a Data Science team at the CSIR. The team develops social media analytics, mapping and geo-location tools.

“We are developing a tool to help law enforcement agencies, government and NGOs to understand the trends in crime and public safety,” Marivate said.

Marivate said there are still limitations to using social media data. 

“We need to understand the limits and biases that can be introduced by relying only on social media data that might represent only a subset of the population or perpetuate discrimination, given past data,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za