A Cybersecurity Insights Report released by Norton has revealed that 8.8 million South Africans has fallen victim to cybercrime in the past year.

This is particularly worrying, seeing as banks and financial services providers are increasingly using online platforms and applications to drive usability. Not only that, but mobile banking is also on the rise due to a push from governments as it is said to improve financial inclusion – it offers financial accessibility to everyone, irrespective of their location or abilities.

But this accessibility presents some problems as the most vulnerable to online security threats are the underprivileged, old and disabled who may not have the savvy to understand online security.

So we’ve rounded up a few tips to ensure your online activity and transactions are secure.

Tips to safeguard your online activity

Online card transactions

  • Register for a banking service which sends you an email or SMS notification whenever you make a transaction – most banks offer these free of charge or for a minimal fee.
  • Register your cards for 3D security – with this security measure you will receive a push notification or SMS on your cell phone asking you to authorise the transaction.
  • Don’t write down your PIN – rather memorise it by heart.
  • If you are unsure whether an online purchasing of financial services site is secure, contact the provider, read some reviews or rather go to the bank or shop physically to make your transactions.
  • Financial services apps or sites won’t ask for the CVV (Card Verification Value) numbers (last three digits) until you make the purchase. These numbers should never be entered for ‘storage’ on an online site.

Email security

  • 9 out of 10 viruses infect computers through email attachments, so be sure to scan your email attachments before opening them.
  • Don’t click on links in apps which require you to enter personal information and passwords.
  • Mark emails as SPAM if you see they’re not from legitimate sources.
  • Inform your financial services provider if you receive an email which you believe not to be from them.
  • Check the email address of the sender – authorised service providers will not send you emails from sources outside the company.
  • If you need to send emails to a large list of names, use the BCC option which ensures the integrity of email communication and prohibits spammers from gathering names and email addresses.
  • Where possible, steer clear of ‘free’ email and webmail services and opt instead for a paid-for service.
  • Use email encryption software, these can be loaded as plug-ins which encrypt, decrypt, sign and verify emails with the OpenPGP standard or opt for TrueCrypt on Microsoft.

Smartphone and application security

  • Protect your smartphone with antivirus software. According to an AV-Test ranking released in May 2016 the best antivirus software for smartphones based on protection and usability is:
    • Antiy AVL 2.4
    • Baidu Mobile Security 8.0
    • Bitdefender Mobile Security
    • Cheetah Mobile CM Security
    • ESET Mobile Security
    • G Data Internet Security
    • Ikarus mobile.security 1.7
    • Kaspersky Lab Internet Security
    • Qihoo 360
    • Sophos Mobile Security
    • Norton Mobile Security
    • Tencent WeSecure 1.4
    • Trend Micro Mobile Security
    • AhnLab V3 Mobile Security

Each of these applications score 5/5 for protection and usability – but remember to check these apps for recent updates as mobile security and threats change frequently

  • Set up a PIN or password for your phone. You can also set passwords for individual apps in your smartphone security or application settings.
  • Only allow downloads and app installations from reputable sources. Your phone should have a checkbox where you can choose this setting under your security or online settings.
  • Clean your browser cookies frequently.
  • Only use one browser on your smartphone.
  • Check your phone bill for unauthorised charges each month.
  • Disable apps where you can easily click through to dating sites, mobile subscription or app downloads as you may inadvertently enter these sites.
  • Don’t put apps with sensitive data on your welcome screen.
  • Check app reviews and ratings in the app store to ensure that you are loading legitimate apps.
  • Inform your financial services providers if you experience any glitches or security threats in the apps or on their websites.
  • Try not to use location information like FourSquare unless it’s absolutely necessary or for security purposes itself – like locating you in the event of an emergency.

Online security

  • Don’t use cloud services for any sensitive data – this includes DropBox, Evernote, iCloud or Google Drive as these could be accessible to others.
  • Use better passwords – try building passphrases instead. These are meaningful sentences which only you will know. Replace some of the vowels with numbers.
  • Clear your browser cache and cookies – you will lose your saved username and passwords, but this will prohibit websites from tracking you.
    • Adjust cookie and site permissions, you can do this on your browser’s settings toolbar.
    • Under your privacy settings in Chrome, click on content settings then select which cookies you want to remove.
    • For Safari, click on Empty Cache and click Empty or click on Preferences, Privacy and Details to remove your cookies.
    • For Internet Explorer, click on the Tools icon, then on Safety and Delete Browsing History. Uncheck everything except Temporary Internet and website files. To delete cookies tap on Settings then Options , History and select the Cookies check box, then click delete.
    • For Firefox, click on Preferences in your Firefox menu then click the Options window. Choose the Privacy tab and clear your recent history in the history area. Under your list, go to the bottom of the window and uncheck everything except Cache. If you don’t see anything to click, choose Details and click on Clear Now.
  • Visit reputable review sites like CNET to see ratings, reviews and information regarding plugins, software and plug-ins. If the software you want is
  • Steer clear of torrent sites.
  • If your computer is running slow, check your Task Manager to see which apps are running in the background and ask your network administrator about apps which look strange.
  • Run frequent scans with your antivirus software to check for bugs and viruses and clean up your computer.
  • Make sure that other people aren’t administrators on your computer or laptop as this may prohibit you from accessing files or running software and could allow others to log into your PC.
  • Under your PC’s settings, change your privacy settings so it won’t allow apps to use your camera, location information, advertising ID, name, picture or other account information.
  • Check which wireless devices you are paired with and unpair the ones which you don’t know.
  • Don’t allow remote access to your computer or laptop unless absolutely crucial.
  • Use a proxy server to prevent attacks and unexpected access to your computer. This server serves as an intermediary between your computer and the internet.
  • Try to use websites with https:// and not http:// addresses. This ensures SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) security and displays a padlock on your browser address field which tells you that your browser connection to the server is secure. If the padlock is broken, the page is not SSL secured.
  • Some software is bundled – when you install your software, make sure not to uncheck checkboxes which will allow additional software to be installed as well.
  • Set your internet security on Medium to High so you are protected at all times.
  • If your network administrator won’t allow you to change settings for your computer or laptop, then discuss your issues with them or opt instead to use your own hardware where possible.
  • Don’t use other people’s hard drives or flash drives unless you know the drives are secure and free of viruses. Perform regular virus scans on your own drives to ensure optimal security
  • Don’t give your passwords to anyone else.

We hope your online browsing and applications will be a secure and pleasant experience. If you’re afraid you’ll forget anything, why not print this page and put it up next to your desk so you are reminded to stay secure at all times.

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