Copyright 2018

So why do you leave the door open on your connected devices such as your laptop, tablet and phone? Everyone needs to apply the same precautions and care to keep strangers out of, and away from, their digital identity in cyberspace, says Rianette Leibowitz, the founder of SaveTNet Cyber Safety NPC.

SaveTNet is a registered non-profit company which aims to protect people and save lives by creating awareness of responsible digital engagement. SaveTNet offers a network of support through its partners and is the first point of reference for people who need cyber safety information or help.

Cybercrime is increasing exponentially around the world, and it takes many forms, on a variety of digital online platforms, from ‘phishing’ emails and SMSs to viruses, Trojans and hacks.

The massive rise in popularity of Smartphones and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, have brought new threats to peoples’ and companies’ online identities. As the spread of cybercrime grows, marketing and public relations practitioners need to understand its implications and potential effects, and have appropriate defensive and remedial communication strategies in place to deal with them, for both themselves and their clients.

This was one of the key strategies to emerge from a fascinating cyber security panel discussion hosted by PRISA’s APR Committee on 6 October at the premises of legal firm Norton Rose Fulbright.

The panel featured several experts on cyber security:

  • Rianette Leibowitz – Founder, SaveTNet Cyber Safety
  • Nerushka Bowen – Technology and Privacy Lawyer, NortonRoseFulbright
  • Brigadier Piet Pieterse – The Hawks
  • Maria Pienaar – Chief Information Officer: Cell C
  • Kirsty Sharman –Head of Webfluential

“It’s very simple:  as long as you’re connected to the Internet, you can become a victim of cyber-attacks,” said Francois Vorster, Chief Disrupter of advertising agency Integrated Marketing Solutions, key participant at the event.

Social Media – a Favourite Target

Vorster says that, as businesses step up security on their computer networks by installing the latest firewalls and virus software, hackers choose the path of least resistance: social media. According to current statistics, there are more than 1.6 billion users (about 64% of all internet users) on social networks worldwide. Social media abuse is on the rise, with Facebook attracting the most abuse with 63% of users reporting harassment. Every day, more than 600 000 Facebook pages are compromised.

Common Sense

Vorster says marketers and public relations practitioners should apply “common sense” when navigating through cyberspace. Here are his top safety tips:

  1. Beware what you Share! One of the most popular ways that hackers break into your accounts is by clicking the “Forgot your Password” link on the account or login page. To break into your account, they search for answers to your security questions, such as your birth date, the suburb where you grew up, your mother’s maiden name, etc.
  2. Take care when choosing your social networks:  Evaluate the site – and make sure you understand their privacy policy. Most importantly, be wary of clicking on links you receive in messages from your friends on your social media sites.
  3. Be Responsible: Think before you post links from dubious websites to friends and colleagues.
  4. Get Tech Savvy: Learn more about cyber security - what are suspect websites, what can go wrong, and steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim.

 “The public relations industry has a huge role to play in creating awareness of cybercrime and educating stakeholders about threats and remedies, while we as communication professionals should be part of the lead time to prepare, protect and manage any cyber related threats,” concludes Rianette  Leibowitz.

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