Open Wi-Fi connections leaving more South Africans vulnerable

People using open Wi-FI networks to access the internet are at risk of exposing their personal information to potential hackers, this according to Rianette Leibowitz, CEO of SaveTNet Cyber Safety.

A 2015 Cisco report predicted that massive growth would be experienced throughout South Africa in regards to 4G and Wi-Fi connections over next five years spanning 2014 to 2019. This shows that more and more South Africans are taking advantage of creating as well as accessing WIFI connections.

Recently, open Wi-Fi connections have become a big boom in some of the country’s major metropolitan areas such as City of Joburg, Tshwane, as well as the City of Cape Town. With areas such as eThekwini Municipality looking to follow suit.

However these connections without security have also been made available to public by businesses such as restaurants, hotels, airports, bookstores, and even random retail outlets. Furthermore individuals are also able to set up unencrypted connections.

The lack of security in these networks has the potential to leave users vulnerable as their usage of this passage into the cybernet of the means certain aspects of their information is made available.

Leibowitz says it important for users of these connection points buff up their security. “It’s good for you to ask what security measures they (open Wi-Fi providers) have in place. If you are using your own technology you should have anti-virus software,” expressed Leibowitz.

Using Wi-Fi means data is being sent through radio waves to a router, there is a likely possibility that information can easily be intercepted by someone who has the right tools and knowledge.

One of the biggest risks when using an open connection lies in what the end user is doing on their device, security encrypted websites such as banking, and online stores are obvious targets for hackers to attempt to intercept data giving them access to passwords.

Such vulnerabilities of individuals passwords being at the hands of others has become a trend and a norm within the internet space, not only in South Africa by other parts of the world. Cyber-crime has a matter of serious concern in South Africa.

In his 2016 response to debate on the State of the Nation Address 2016, President Jacob Zuma, said “Another new law being introduced is the Cyber Crimes and Related Matters Bill, which is scheduled to be introduced into Parliament in the first half of 2016.”

The seriousness of the cyber-attacks has not only prompted government to act according but also institutions such as SaveTNet Cyber Safety. CEO Rianette Leibowitz says in as much as we might think of crimes committed via the internet as a farfetched story from your favorite Television series, the reality is that these things happen.

People using the technology of the internet need to remain vigilant at all times and this can only be possible if the users are aware of the risks they are inclined too. Phishing scams have become notorious ways in which hackers try to infiltrate their targets.

Internet users are encouraged to take measures to ensure that they keep themselves safe. Leibowitz adds that keeping safe is often tied to being aware of the terms of use with platforms where people are active on the internet. The relevance of understanding terms of use becomes useful on Social Media Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook as these communities have their rules which users are expected to abide on.

“It’s about understanding the terms and conditions of platforms that we use – people are encouraged to read through the rules and be careful what they share,” says Leibowitz.

However because social media means people are putting out a lot of their information, Leibowitz stressed that in keeping safe one needs to have an understanding of their digital footprint by “ keeping tabs on their profile” so that they are aware should they be affected by identity theft.

“In the instance that peoples details are obtained and have been hit by identity theft it is important to try identify the source and find the information that has been obtained,” expressed Leibowitz. However, should it seem like the identity theft has been exacerbated it is important that relevant measures are taken to retrieve information that has been stolen.

Rianette Leibowitz together with privacy lawyer Nerushka Bowan, Adv. Jacqueline Fick, Webfluential’s Kirsty Sharman will on the 6th of October further explore the topic of cyber security in a panel discussion at Norton Rose Fulbright in Sandton Johannesburg between 16:00 and 18:00.


. . . . . . . .

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply