Ransomware continues to plague public and private institutions, and the cost of these attacks can be devastating. There is an urgent need to improve cyber awareness among the general population as more and more criminals are exploiting the speed, convenience, and anonymity of the internet to commit a diverse range of criminal activities that know no borders. Clicking on an unsafe link or accidentally disclosing sensitive personal or financial information can lead to infected devices, being locked out of one’s online accounts and, in severe cases, breaches of one’s online banking profile, which may result in severe financial losses.
At a broader level, every person that falls victim to cybercrime is another potential threat to the security of the companies they work for, their systems, their employees, customers, suppliers, and partners.
In a recent High Court judgement PSG Wealth Financial Planning (Pty) Ltd (“PSG Wealth”) was ordered to reimburse a client who lost R800 000 to email fraud, as well as to reimburse the fees, commission, interest, and legal costs incurred by the client.
The presiding judge stated that PSG Wealth had a contractual obligation to its clients to employ resources, procedures, and appropriate technological systems that “can reasonably be expected to eliminate, as far as reasonably possible, the risk that the clients will suffer financial loss through theft or fraud. The assumption of these contractual obligations must be construed in the context that cybercrime is universally recognised as a scourge.” She further stated that “even if it had been shown by the defendant that the plaintiff was negligent, this does not absolve the defendant of his admitted contractual obligations. The proximate cause of the loss was not the hacking; it was the failure to employ the necessary and contractually prescribed vigilance when monies held in trust were sought to be paid into a different account.”
Consideration should be given to the above, as well as other recent cases, such as the judgement where ENSafrica was ordered to pay R5.5 million, plus costs at a punitive scale, to a property purchaser who was a victim of cybercrime. The circumstances that led up to these judgments are potentially similar to those that can occur when an FSP shares its banking details with clients via email, in order for them to make investments.
It is clear that without adequate protection against cyber threats, efforts at building a strong economy will be undermined. We strongly urge all clients to take control of their internet safety and to implement the necessary protection measures to avoid falling victim to these cybercrimes.
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