Computer Crime Research Center


UCT to measure cybercrime

Date: May 31, 2008

he University of Cape Town's information systems department is conducting what could be SA's first empirical survey on computer crime and security.

The study will seek to establish how severe a problem cybercrime is in SA and how business is coping with the scourge. It will also measure the extent to which computer crime is reported and compare SA's position with that of Australia and the US.

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Researchers Alexa Dunnett and Julien Rizzo say they hope the survey will add to the body of information systems-related knowledge. “Computer crime has escalated considerably over recent years and has become a very serious problem that costs governments, organisations and general computer users significant losses annually, and we believe that SA is no exception to the rule,” says Dunnett.

The SA Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) last month said that, in the first quarter of this year alone, business lost R276 million just to identity theft-related fraud. SAFPS CE Pat Cunningham added indications were the amount will climb steeply this year.

Magix Integration director Amir Lubashevsky adds that identity theft-related crime, typically preceded by phishing, is just one aspect of cybercrime. Other popular forms include online scams and electronic versions of traditional frauds and confidence tricks in addition to “bad apple” staff, who manipulate the company's IT and typically its financial systems to their own – or a third party's – monetary advantage.

Lubashevsky and other security experts warn that the current and unabated upward spiral in fuel and food prices, as well as interest rates, have put most South Africans in a financial bind and many will be tempted to turn to white collar crime to make ends meet. Companies are traditionally loathe to report white collar crime to the police as it is seen to harm the brand. Many also doubt the police's ability to investigate such crimes and have misgivings about the state's ability to prosecute such cases before the courts.

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