This type of crime is booming in South Africa – with the threat literally in your pocket

 ·24 Feb 2024

Mobile cyber threats are increasing in South Africa, but there are ways to minimise the risk.

According to Kaspersky, the number of mobile threats detected in the Middle East, Turkiye, and Africa (META) region increased by 22% from 2022 to 2023.

Specifically, South Africa saw a 104% increase in mobile threats.

These statistics come from Kaspersky’s products on Android devices, with Apple devices harder to monitor due to OS specifications.

Malware infection sources are diverse, with users encountering malware when they install programs from unofficial sources. However, malicious apps can also be found on mobile marketplaces.

Attackers bait victims by disguising a malicious app as a useful or well-known application, with the top 5 baits in the META region used by cybercriminals involving positioning malware as WhatsApp or Chrome app mods, music downloaders, ad-blocking software, and system apps.

The most prevalent mobile threats in META included adware, spyware and mobile banking trojans.

Although adware can appear harmless, it can spam a user with ads, drain battery, or even access sensitive data.

Spyware can steal data from an infected smartphone, such as contact and user account information on the device and documents, and also record audio from a device’s microphone.

“One of the types of mobile malware observed in the Middle East, Turkiye, Africa region are trojans – apps that are often disguised as legitimate ones,” said Kaspersky’s Dmitry Galov.

“Trojans can steal data from victims’ devices, add unwanted subscriptions, and extort money.”

“In 2024, we believe that the number of advanced attacks on mobile devices will increase, as attackers are constantly looking for new ways to deliver malware, and the malware itself is becoming more sophisticated.”

“As a result, attackers may seek new ways to monetise their efforts. It is also important to observe and analyse how the mobile cyber threat landscape will change when it becomes possible to install applications from alternative stores on iOS, bypassing the App Store, without jailbreaking.”

Kaspersky recommends the following procedures to protect from these attacks:

  • Download apps only from official stores like Apple AppStore, Google Play or Amazon Appstore. Apps from these markets are not 100% failsafe, but at least they get checked by the moderators, and there is some filtration system — not every app can get onto these stores. It’s worth looking through user reviews of an app to see if there is any negative feedback on its functionality.
  • Check the permissions of apps you use and think carefully before permitting an app, especially when it comes to high-risk permissions such as Accessibility Services.
  • A reliable mobile security product can help you detect malicious apps and adware before they start behaving badly on your device.
  • Update your operating system and important apps as updates become available. Many safety issues can be solved by installing updated versions of software.

Read: The new type of fraud that 80% of South Africans fall for

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