One of mankind’s greatest technological events was the day in 1991 when the world’s first web page was published.

Since then, the Internet has continued to grow and change every aspect of our lives, from how we work to how we live.

Every day, millions of people use the Internet to access various online search engines to get information about daily events, communicate effectively, and perform various tasks that provide greater comfort and well-being.

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According to Statista, there are 41.19 million active Internet users in South Africa as of January 2022. And most of us – approximately 78.6% of the country’s population – go online through a mobile device.

The Sortlist study also found that South Africa ranks 4th in the world for the amount of time spent online, with the average person spending 10 hours and 6 minutes a day browsing websites.

As we are online every day and for long periods of time, the risk of becoming a victim of a cyber attack over the Internet is increasing.

According to a report by Check Point Software Technologies, the second quarter of 2022 reached an all-time high, with global cyberattacks increasing by 32% compared to the second quarter of 2021.

Some of the most common dangers that Internet users may be exposed to include:

  • Malware: A variety of malware: computer viruses, worms, trojans, ransomware, spyware, adware, scareware, and more. It can take the form of executable code, scripts, live content, and other software. The most common forms of malware in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) include Emotet, Formbook, AgentTesla, Lokibot, XMRig, Remcos, Qbot, Tofsee, Ramnit and Glupteba.
  • Phishing: A social engineering technique used by cybercriminals to fraudulently obtain sensitive information from users in order to steal their identity. This can include the theft of personal data, credit cards and bank details, among other things. One of the most common forms of phishing is impersonating well-known or trusted brands, where phishing links are placed in innocuous emails that unsuspecting victims click on. To use the Internet safely and minimize risks, Internet users offer the following tips:

Five tips for staying safe online

  • Visit only safe sites: Many websites lack security measures, either because they are poorly configured (putting public information at risk) or because they are malicious. For this reason, it is important to take extreme precautions when sharing personal information online and to know which sites are safe. The best method is to check if the site complies with the https security protocol (for example, if the URL has an ‘s’ in the beginning of ‘https’, it means that it is a secure website and conforms to security standards. Another sign that is present in some browsers – a green lock at the beginning of the link).
  • Always install updates: It is often thought that updating software and applications is not important. However, this habit of ignoring updates can be a big risk, as various security patches installed to address previously discovered security bugs are not implemented. In other words, the latest software update optimizes your security level and is an effective strategy to protect your data and files from potential security breaches.
  • Do not use the same username and password for different online services: More and more services, programs and applications can be used over the Internet. For this reason, users often use the same access credentials to make things easier and avoid forgetting passwords. This is a huge mistake because if a cybercriminal can gain access to the user base and passwords of any one of these apps, it will be very easy to hack the others. It is very important to use unique passwords for different online accounts and not to use passwords that can be easily guessed (birthday, pet’s name, etc.).
  • Download apps only from official stores: Games, social networks, online banking – the number of mobile applications available for download is increasing, which means that users tend to install more applications on their mobile devices. It is important to make sure that whenever you download one of these apps, it comes from an official store (Play Store, App Store, etc.) and that you read the various terms of use, as some of them may be offensive and suggest control over your data and information.
  • Protect your devices: A cybercriminal can gain access to a smartphone, tablet or computer in a number of ways, thereby stealing an incalculable amount of information. With this in mind, it is essential to protect yourself from cyber attacks with security software that protects your devices and information. Apps like Check Point’s ZoneAlarm Mobile (home version) and Harmony Mobile (enterprise version) help protect devices from today’s mobile attacks.

Pankaj Bhula, Check Point Software’s regional director for Africa, says that the Internet is part of everyone’s daily life and since the pandemic, its use has become even more active.

“For this reason, it’s important to be aware of the risks we’re exposed to every time we perform tasks like browsing websites or downloading apps, and to stay protected by taking a proactive stance so that we don’t put our data at risk,” says Bhula.

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