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SA ISP lobby group warns consumers against assuming online safety

SA ISP lobby group warns consumers against assuming online safety

South Africa's Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) has issued a warning to consumers today against letting their guard down on the internet this festive season as there is no sufficient information on which to base an assumption of safety.

Dominic Cull, regulatory advisor at the ISPA says local networks connected via the worldwide web are constantly attacked by hackers who attempt to steal valuable financial information or obtain fraudulent telecoms revenue.

"Securing a network that can be accessed by hackers anywhere in the world is a moving target that depends on regularly updated information. Unfortunately, there is a silence amongst ISPs and large corporates in the interests of protecting reputations. Convincing consumers and ourselves that South African ICT networks are impenetrable is counterproductive," says Cull.

He also revealed that in the run-up to the annual Christmas e-commerce rush, the ISPA has called on members to consider ways for the industry to transform network security incidents into learning opportunities. The organisation says it is also engaging with the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) on the issue.

"Consumers can have confidence in their banks, insurance firms and others, and still be vigilant about their personal information,"

Cull adds that although the ISPA is an industry lobby group, it was founded with a strong consumer protection mandate and strives to remind consumers that there is no such thing as a secure system.

The institution has provided tips and hints for consumers this festive season urging them to put the same effort into protecting themselves in the online world as they do in the offline world.

Consumers are also advised to be more discerning about where they place sensitive financial information like credit card numbers as well as to avoid emailing this information and consider downloading a 'bank vault' type of app to store this information securely on their computer.

Another tip from the ISPA is for consumers to consider opening a separate bank account used solely for online purchases where they can apply for a very reasonable credit limit so that any potential loss is a small one and easily survivable.

Enabling password protection on mobile devices' home screens so that another person cannot simply pick up hardware and gain access to potentially sensitive information is also highlighted. The ISPA says while it is a hassle entering a four digit password every time a user needs to access a smartphone, it is worthwhile to have the peace of mind knowing it is secure when left unattended.

The use of prepaid options when it comes to airtime and other goods and services are always more secure and less prone to unfortunate, hacker-related surprises at debit order time according to the organisation.

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