SOUTH AFRICA remains the most targeted region for phishing scams even though global spam volumes have reportedly decreased according to a leading web security service study.

MessageLabs Intelligence revealed South Africa to be the most targeted for phishing scams since September 2010. Their latest report, released March 2011, keeps SA in the top position.

Third year media studies student, Ruth Poswelletski, knows a few people that have been scammed on the net. Her sister’s employee believed a spam scam and “lost more than R10 000”. She is untrustworthy of internet banking because of her friend’s negative experiences and usually deletes foreign e-mails and spam.

Kshir Bedhesi who worked in Standard Bank’s online security division last year and is a 2nd year architecture student, said they managed to “shut down all the phishing sites [duplicate bank sites] by the end of the year”.

The common method of implementing an attack is by sending an official-looking e-mail which plays on the users’ fears requesting them to either divulge personal information or to follow a link to a phishing site. The ultimate aim is to gain as much information for fraud purposes, Bedhesi explained.

Popular spam that people get “sucked” into entertaining is the Nigerian 4-1-9 scam which is an
advance-fee fraud scam.

“These come in the form of mails that say you are a lottery winner,” he added, “and people often lose money getting sucked into them. The money then becomes difficult to retrace.”

Spam can also include functionality to access personal information.

“Someone out there is using my identity as his own,” said 3rd year information systems student, Chintan Patel about his hotmail address being stolen by a hacker. There’s an underworld of hackers who are trying to outdo the other.

Patel advises sending an e-mail to many addresses by “BCC” (blind carbon copy). Scammers feed off chain mail forwarded to many visible addresses.

”Wits has a place you can forward spam to,” he added.

“As virtual as [the internet] is, it’s also real,” said a member of the CNS network team. He said the hacker underworld is made up of a range of personalities described as “black hats and white hats”.

Black hats are intentionally malicious and want to hack or crack codes to access data as they find it a challenge. White hats break codes to test them.

He advises pupils to use “Firefox” as a web browser, internet security and to be aware and question where things come from.